Pope Francis asks: ‘How much do you love? What is your faith like?’ He answers: ‘My faith is as my love is”, for “Love is the measure of faith’.

Love is the defining measure for Christians, even for those who are persecuted and oppressed. That is why they are, or should be, always prepared to forgive. And when this seems humanly speaking almost impossible to do, then we need people who can remind us that for God nothing is impossible.

In Burundi, a small country in the heart of Africa that was also caught up in the terrible genocide between the rival Hutu and Tutsi tribes in neighbouring Rwanda, there is a young religious community that seeks to embody this yardstick of our faith. It is called ‘New Life for Reconciliation’ and it is attracting many young people in particular.

Reconciliation springs from forgiveness, says Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega, who founded this apostolic movement. It is a community open to Catholics from every state and walk of life, both religious and lay.

At present it has three priests, four brothers and a dozen novices. Until recently these novices did not even have a roof over their heads but, together with other helpers, they have now built a house, with small individual rooms and a chapel. So far so good. But the rooms are still empty; there is no money left for beds, mattresses, chairs, tables, cupboards, bookshelves…

And now they have asked us for assistance, so that they can buy at least the most basic furniture for these rooms. These young men need a place to study and also to withdraw to from time to time, so that they can reflect on the many projects and duties in the work of reconciliation in their country and pray about them. We have said yes, of course. For the measure of their need should also be the measure of our love.

Another major project for reconciliation is the youth centre in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This project is now in its third and final phase, though in fact the centre is already up and running.

Shortly before it was opened, Pope Francis met there with thousands of young people and asked them – indeed entrusted to them this mission: ‘Work for peace, all of you together. Muslims, Jews, Orthodox, Catholics and those of other religions too. We are all brothers; make peace, do not allow anything to destroy our unity and brotherly friendship!’

Indeed, this mission so to speak constitutes the very DNA of this centre. The Catholic Church could have timidly accepted the fact of being a minority church in the country and simply kept herself to herself.

But timidity is not the measure of the Christian. Instead, Cardinal Vinko Puljic is looking to the future and striving, through these young people, to build bridges across the religious and ethnic divides. The John Paul II Youth Centre is one of the great pillars of this project.

In this place young people are learning not merely tolerance, but reconciliation. And they are helping wherever they can. But for this third and final phase they also need professional tradesmen, for the plastering, wiring, stairs etc.

We have promised them a contribution for the present and future work of reconciliation.


This article can be found in Mirror 0316.