Testimony of three nuns of the Missionary Company
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and their friendship
with the Muslims of Taza
Taza (Agenzia Fides) - Taza is a Muslim town of 150,000 inhabitants where, currently, the only Catholic community present is made up of three nuns of the Missionary Company of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. "It is not possible to speak in public about the Catholic religion, but after almost 20 years of living here we are well known in the city. People know who we are and how we work", says Sister Angeles Olga Castro, a nun of Spanish origin, in an interview with Agenzia Fides.
"In 1996, during a General Assembly of the Institute - explains the missionary - there was a lot of talk about our mission and how the Church was beginning to speak of interreligious dialogue as the first part of Evangelization. We therefore planned to work in a completely non-Christian country in which to achieve the objective of interreligious dialogue. The Congregation therefore asked the sisters who volunteered to begin this new mission. Three of us, including myself, from different places, volunteered. We contacted the then Archbishop of Tangier, Msgr. José Antonio Peteiro Freire, OFM, who offered us a place where to begin our mission. We joined the northern city of Tetouan, where we stayed for 3 years. Then, part of the community moved to the town of Taza, in the center-east of the country. There we discovered how interreligious dialogue with Muslims is experienced".
"Even if we find ourselves in a totally Muslim environment - emphasizes Sister Olga - we are able to give our Christian witness by starting from friendship and closeness, two values to which we attach great importance and which we try to put into practice. However, our Muslim brothers and sisters also offer us their testimony: the values they live and their way of putting them into practice in difficult situations that they are forced to live. In Taza, we have never noticed any religious intolerance.
On the contrary, there is openness and attention. As a precaution, when we are in some public place or on a train and someone wants to have a conversation with us on religious topics, we are very careful what we say ... and there have never been any problems. Our community lives interreligious dialogue in life and in its work with the population".
The missionary says that currently the nuns are involved in a Moroccan association that deals with disabled children. "If a nurse is present in the community, she works in the public hospital where everyone is welcomed and cared for, including the poorest people, especially those who live in the countryside. We help poor children to finish their education when they drop out of school. And starting from the people we meet during these services, we visit the families, and thus we know their joys, their difficulties, their needs, making ourselves close to the elderly, newborns, mothers.
Most of Taza's families come from mountain villages. They came to the town to allow their children to continue their education, since in the villages there is only primary school. They are very simple, open, welcoming people. With them, friendship is immediate. They invite us easily and simply to their homes, to their family and religious celebrations. The people we work with most closely are very poor and see us as family members, sharing with us what they have. They are very generous and we always have a full pantry".
The Missionary Company of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a small exclusively missionary institute present in Texas (United States), Peru, Colombia, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, India, Cambodia.