- Impressions of Madagascar
I was coming for the first time in this country. The Spiritan
missionaries invited me to animate a spiritual retreat in Tananarive.
As first contact I thought that I ought to go to the bush. It
was a delight for me to cross the high lands and to go down to
the East coast on the Indian Ocean, with the forest surrounded
by red lands, a landscape full of harmony, with numerous rice
fields. And along the roads, people marching with dignity.
In spite of the rain, I went for a walk round the village market.
I saw two children exhausted by carrying on their shoulders a
log with two stacks of cut wood hanging at the ends. They were
walking slowly through the market displays watching for an eventual
buyer. In vain. I had pity for these children coming from the
forest after a walk of 6 kms! Children who were not attending
My companion got an idea: I am going to ask some people that
I know to buy this wood. They did it willingly. We called on
the children. I helped them to unload their burden. How heavy
was this wet wood! Both having got their money; at once they
went back to the forest.
We were four of us to leave the Mission by car to go towards
the capital, feeling we could expect some problems on our way.
Effectively the first floating bridge happened to be impassable.
It was raining. We had to leave the car in a safe place. Where
to put our eight piece of luggage except in a modest hut by the
path? The family man accepted to keep them, the luggage were
taking a good part of the hut. The mother was smiling with her
baby in her arms. Three children were looking at us with an amused
curiosity. The father looked like an icon figure, peaceful and
with dignity. How could they support themselves? Such poverty
for this family! They did not own anything but the essential,
family love, isn't it?
On Saturday afternoon I visited Pedro, a friend who came to
Evreux on an Easter day. He is a well-known missionary in Madagascar.
- Since more than twenty years he has been building villages
on the rubbish dumps for the poor with the poor, making them
proud of themselves. Driving his car he was explaining the origin
of his years of work with people living in unbelievable conditions
of misery. He took up the challenge to change things with them.
His work is remarkable. Today villages are put up with better
houses adorned with flowers, real streets with pavement, and
true squares with shops. As soon as Pedro was getting out of
his car, a gathering of children met him with joy. The adults
came to him to shake hand with respect. He knew all of them by
name and their history. It was impressive to see this man, having
the energy to undertake, to make the things possible, to communicate
his energy and above all not giving up!
Before my departure I celebrated mass with him on Sunday.
In the gymnasium, a crowd of 3 500 people were gathered.
- It was the feast of the light. Every one was having a
lighted candle. When every body raised his candle it was like
a glowing flame. This crowd was bringing light and was aware
of its dignity. Each village was animating the liturgy by its
dances, songs and applauds.
The mass lasted more than two hours, but I did not find it too
long. I left Madagascar happy to see this man bringing hope to
these poor people and courage to many for the future.