Jesuit Testimonies from Beira
Cyclone Idai’s death toll has now reached more than 750 across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, the three Southern African countries to be hit by the storm ten days ago. Over 110, 000 people are now in camps and the lack of safe drinking water is causing outbreaks of cholera.
Jesuit Missions has launched an emergency appeal and is working with the local Jesuits across the region. Beira, a port city on the coast of Mozambique was the first place to be hit by Cyclone Idai and felt its full force. It is reported that every house has been destroyed in this city of half a million. There is a Jesuit parish and community in Beira where fortunately everybody survived, but the church has suffered some severe damage.
Richard Musonda is a Jesuit novice in Zambia and was in Beira doing his spiritual experiment at the hospital when Cyclone Idai hit. He says, “I could hear the winds getting stronger when I went to bed around 9pm. I could feel the wind picking up full force. Rooves started flying off and smashing windows. Everywhere was getting flooded, from the first floor where I was staying to the bottom. They are still counting those who have died. Many people are homeless. I’d like to encourage my brothers and sisters to pray for the victims and their families.”
Fr Virgilio Costa SJ was born in Beira but lives in Zambia where he works at the Novitiate house. He had returned to Beira to renew his passport when he experienced the full force of Cyclone Idai. He says, “On Friday after the cyclone, life seemed to have ended, but immediately people started helping one another and organising themselves. The Jesuits have a parish in Beira, and it was really painful to see so many people suffering and to hear stories of the people in the parish. Many people lost their houses due to the wind and floods. There has been lots of destruction to the church, it is currently roofless, but the stories of the parishioners were the most painful. We had many funerals during those days following. But Ignatius would tell us in today’s gospel that nothing is impossible with God. I have seen the signs of the presence of God in the willingness of the people to help one another and not to lose hope. There was no electricity, no power, no communications, no phones, no internet for four days after the cyclone. But what I saw was people already sharing what little they had left. Disease and hunger is really starting to hit now, when I left Mozambique a few days ago cholera was breaking out and the hospitals are already full of people.”