Tunisia - What was new at Hammam-Lif in 2016?
It is a joy for us to share something of our life during this year 2015-2016, in a world that is being transformed, in a Tunisia that is seeking its identity.
The most recent event was the decision to leave of our two Oblates of the Assumption, Béatrice and Justine, with whom we had built an inter-Assumption community from 2010. It was a decision taken ‘for the greater glory of God’ on the part of each, and in response to another mission for our two sisters. A path of life that will become clearer with time…
They are not the only ones to leave the diocese which, this year, is being severely tried: the Marianists are leaving this land of Tunisia where the Institute has been for 135 years: the Salesians are taking over their large school that has more than 1,000 pupils.
The Little Sisters of Jesus, after more than 50 years of presence here, have also gone, leaving the large southern part of the country empty. Who will take over to ensure a Christian presence for the sub-Saharan students and, above all, to be the heart, the eyes and the hands of the One whom we follow, in these more distant regions, and from where the religious communities have departed one after another? We ourselves, LSA, left Médenine in 2004.
A new diocesan project is being studied to assure a Gospel presence there, but with whom?
Throughout the year, our community remained faithful to its project of welcome: ‘the common house’ open to persons who are different in every way. These range from those with responsibility for the young people of the Catholic Delegation for Co-operation stationed in Tunisia, and Caroline, who has been in Tunisia for nearly 60 years and who unfortunately broke her arm – she who lives alone in the ‘médina’: how could she have been able to look after herself on her own? Without counting our Tunisian friends, who this year shared the joy of Christmas and who have already made the appointment for Christmas 2016 by inviting other neighbours who are all happy to be at the festivities. There were the surprise visits of our friend Stéphanie with her husband Sami and their two boys; then, this summer, as is the case every year, our priest friend who has accompanied the community since 2003, for a time of rest. He has left us, defeated by illness, leaving as ‘orphans’ not just the diocese but a large number of Tunisians, men and women, for whom Fulvio was the reference with regard to listening, kindness, advice.
An open community, as are all the communities here, so as to enable each and all to recuperate, whether for a day or a few days – a necessary openness so as to help another, or quite simply, to broaden one’s point of view.
The community on the occasion of the silver jubilee celebration of Béatrice, OA, with our friend Fulvio who died on the 11th September
What can we say about the numerous little services received from Salah, Sadok, Samir, Lotfi, always ready to help us out: the friends are everywhere in the neighbourhood!
This friendship is the fruit of twenty years of discreet and gratuitous presence, because we have no special service in the area, but we are there with them.
Our country is still going through all the pains of childbirth since 2011... each season brings its own, above all at the political level, with the changes of government, each person hoping that the next one will be more effective than the preceding one!
Economically, life is increasingly difficult for the majority of the population, but nobody gives way: the women are particularly committed and a recent book written by one of them has just praised this: ‘Liberty as a heritage’ by Najat Fakhfakh. This fighting spirit among the women is one of the characteristics of our Tunisian people. Solidarity is expressed and is put into practice, the desire for a real change is there, but also the desire that public life would be seriously taken in hand so as to recover a sense of citizenship, the taste for work, and to see at last Tunisia being reborn under a more luminous light, once again attractive. That is why our life here, under the guidance of the Spirit, seeks quite simply to be the carrier of the Hope we have with those whose humanity we share and who are also in quest of a true fraternity that is still to be built. Because, as a slogan of one of the many associations of Tunisian women puts it: ‘Alone we are invisible, but together we are invincible’.
‘Mary went in haste to her cousin Elisabeth…’ This gospel of the Visitation is the mainspring of the pastoral reflection for the whole of the dioceses of North Africa. Is it not the one that is leading us to the next general chapter in 2017?
A gateway of the town of Sfax where the LSA arrived in 1934
In our somewhat ‘marginal’ reality, we are happy to be at one with the path of the Congregation ‘to procure the Glory of God by the Salvation of the poor and little ones’ R.L. 5, and, ‘we learn with them to let ourselves be converted to the Gospel.’ R.L. 20.
Françoise and Elisabeth, LSAs