(Bishop of Gaborone, South Africa)
I come from Botswana where the land is dry and the sun is very hot. Most of the country is desert. I come from a people, very patient people, who know struggle and pain and difficulty but also, I come from people who know how to laugh, and dance, and sing, and celebrate.
In Botswana the Catholic community have known the joy of God's word and God's meal of his Body and Blood since the 1920s. Slowly the joy is spreading and the desert of our lives has blossomed with new and beautiful flowers.
Although it was a desert land, this was fertile soil for the see of the Gospel. We recognised it as "Good News" and not "strange news". But sometimes things did not go well. We forgot that we were a community and many became discouraged when we no longer worked out our problems through dialogue, or when rules and structures became more important than people. When we celebrated Mass on Sundays but forget to sit and pray with the bereaved, when we went to their towns and celebrated in the bid Churches but no one asked us our names or our fears; we need to be braver to oppose an individualist approach to live which would rob us of our greatest gift, strength, the support and the life which we first received in our extended family.
In the cities it is easy to feel lost and supported, traditional values and ways of doing things are disappearing.
Just now, in Botswana, the youth aged between 15 and 29 years of age, and the children aged between 1 and 14 constitute well over 70% of the total population. This too is a great challenge to us. We must be ever in search of a way of being Church which will speak to the hearts of these many young people.
Many, because of what we call irregular marriage situations, cannot receive the Eucharist - the Food of Life.
In Botswana, food is a symbol of welcome, of togetherness, of sharing, of celebration, of solidarity. To exclude someone from the Eucharist in Botswana, is interpreted as being excluded from God's company, and God's love. Words expressing otherwise do not convince. I appeal to the Synod Fathers to seriously address this problem.
All need the strength of the Eucharist to overcome discouragement, particularly since our country has changed so radically, so quickly. Few share its new found wealth, some 40% of the households live below the minimum income required to have a decent living.
When Jesus asked us this question, "Who do you say that I am?", we answer, "You are one of us, sharing our pain and leading us in an African dance of New Life".