12/22/2004, 00.00
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The Eucharist: a mystery welcomed by Tribals and Hindus, a missioner's only strength

by Lorenzo Fazzini
Interview with Fr Enzo Corba, PIME missioner. "We and NGOs provide the same social services, but with them it all ends with giving a diploma or healing the sick. Instead, with us people seek something more: a personal experience with God".

Rome (AsiaNews) – In Bangladesh Tribal Animists and Hindus feel closeness to the Eucharist, "the sacrificial offering that gives strength to the community". But the personal relationship with God is that "something extra" that leads them to find in Christianity "the answer to their religious quest", this according to Fr Enzo Corba, a 46-year-old PIME missioner.

Originally from the central Italian region of Latium, Father Corba has a long missionary experience. He spent 16 years in Bangladesh: in Dinajpur, in Barisar, in the Chittagong region (south-east part of the country), then in southern village among Hindus, Muslims and Christians

After six years in the Philippines, he returned to Dinajpur where the local bishop charged with the task of running Sinora, a Christian ashram (retreat). He also teaches in some of the neighbouring villages.

In this interview Father Corba speaks about the value of the Eucharist for the mission and the life of a missioner.

What is the impact of the Eucharist on the mission in Bangladesh?

Since Bangladesh is a Muslim country, the Church works primarily with Tribals, who are animist, and Hindus, especially those who are casteless.

In the tribal worldview, sacrificial offerings are very important because they are concrete manifestations that the Godhead is present.

For Tribals and Hindus, making sacrificial offerings to him is part of family life; so is eating the offering to obtain the divine energy.

This explains why Tribals and Hindus who convert to Christianity feel closeness to the Eucharist; it falls within their set of religious and cultural experiences.

The offerings of the Eucharist—the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Christ—make God present and then go back to the community.

The Eucharistic offering becomes a blessing for the assembly of people and gives them strength to put into practice the teachings of Christian life.

Why do Tribals convert to the Christian faith?

I have been working in a village for the past seven years. Only ten families are Christian; everybody else is either tribal or Hindu.

When I teach, I teach everyone without distinctions and every Christmas and Easter there are young people who want to be baptised.

I don't ask them to become Christian, but I guess a school diploma or sufficient food on the table are not enough for them.

I often ask myself: Why would a 17- or an 18-year-old kid want to be baptised after they finish their schooling with me?

What's your answer? What are they seeking? What draws them?

Tribals understand the deeper sense of our action; they understand what selflessly bearing witness means.

The kids who were my pupils understand that I taught and fed them without any ulterior motive or in exchange for something.

Missioners are different from the NGOs. Don't get me wrong: NGOs do an admirable work. Tribals know it. They provide the same social services we do, but they stop there, at giving a diploma or healing the sick. They don't go beyond; a missioner does and it is that which people want.

I'll give you an example. Some days ago we took a sick woman to hospital that was better equipped. A few days later, she wanted to go back to the missioners. Why? We asked her. "You get a better treatment here!" "Yes!" But it is more peaceful with you".

With Christian missioners, Tribals get something extra: a personal experience of God.

What draws Tribals to Christianity?

A one-to-one prayer with God. When I pray by myself, many come close to me right away because they want to understand what I am doing, why I am all alone. They discover that in addition to being an aid worker I have another relationship, one with God. They intuitively understand that the missioner has a relationship with his God, and they are drawn to it.

Their religion is essentially social in nature. It expresses itself, for instance, in celebrations. But when they see a missioner praying freely, without any coercion, they tell themselves: "I, too, want to live like that and meet God one-to-one".

How important is the Eucharist in the life of a missioner?

One becomes a missioner because one falls in love with Jesus. Christ is the supreme love in the life of a missioner: He is everything. He is present in the Eucharist. For that reason, the church as a holy place is where the missioner finds refuge, where he can reflect, where he can restore peace of mind in everyday life.

Before Jesus, the Eucharist soothes our souls. The Eucharist is the supreme source of a missioner's strength because through It Christ meets man.

And this union is permanent and lasting. It exists when I am riding my bike through the village, when I am walking alone by the rice fields, when I preach the Gospels in church or when I am helping the poor. Christ is the strength that makes me a missioner. There is no other.

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