A Lenten pilgrimage for peace
The pilgrimage of the Archdiocese of Freetown had a special purpose this year. It was focused on the prayer for peace and the commitment to be peaceable people. At the beginning of the pilgrimage, the Archbishop of Freetown, Edward Tamba Charles, spoke about some acts of violence which are springing up in the country since the results of the general political elections were out. People have been bitten or frightened because of their political affiliation or their tribe, said the archbishop in a solemn manner. It is not fair and just in a democratic country, he added.
In fact, after the outcome of the first presidential elections where no political party managed to get the 55% of votes required and while Sierra Leoneans are called back to choose their president on march 27, a bit of fear of violence is observed around the country and especial here in Freetown. It is one of the reasons why many parents do not want to send back their children to school.
Since some Christians may be tempted to behaviour like other citizens, during the pilgrimage, E. Tamba Charles exhorted the Christians to follow the way of the Gospel. Which is a way of peace and non-violence. He repeated the same message in his homily at Saint Paul’s major seminary where almost 6000 people attended the mass. He reminded all those who took part in the Lenten pilgrimage that Christians do not wait political institutions to make peace. Our commitment to be peaceful people, he stressed, is a response to what God has done for us. Because, says saint Paul, for in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things...making peace by the blood of his Cross (Col 1: 19-20).
Therefore, in a context where even Christians are pushed to identify themselves first with political colours or regional ties, the archbishop’s message during the pilgrimage sounded as a clear call to rediscover Jesus’ message on peace and the commitment to it. Because it is in this way that Christian identity appears. Indeed, the church of Christ cannot be anything other than a “peaceable Church” (Jürgen Moltmann). It is because through God’s peacemaking action we have all become members of one body, the Church, whose head is Christ (Col 1: 18). And in this body, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for all are now one in Jesus Christ (Ga 3: 28).
Before the final blessing, the archbishop asked the congregation to sing the Sierra Leonean National Anthem. Interesting was the cry of joy which came from the crowd when the final words of the Anthem were loudly and joyfully pronounced: “Land that we love, our Sierra Leone”!
Started at 7:30 am at Saint Albert’s Academy, the pilgrimage ended at Saint Paul’s Major Seminary at 4:30 pm. It was a nice spiritual moment when during the 6 hours of walking, the mediation on the Stations of the Cross accompanied the journey. Before the mass, priests were available for confessions. And indeed so many people came for confessions as a way to reaffirm that peace comes from God’s forgiveness and the ability to forgive each other.