“Life goes on”: Beira, Mozambique
Jesuit Missions is working with Jesuits across Southern Africa to respond to the tragedy of Cyclone Idai. Fr Heribert Fernando Muller SJ is a German Jesuit who lives in Mozambique. Last weekend he visited the Jesuit community in Beira, and reflects on what he witnessed in the aftermath of the deadly Cyclone.
Today I’m writing not from Chividzi in northwestern Mozambique, where I’ve run the Loyola School for two years, but from Beira, the port city in the south of the country. There is hardly a house here that has suffered no damage. The force of the wind and water has torn roofs off the houses, collapsed walls, uprooted mango trees and coconut palms. Isabel, whom I have known since my time in the parish, tells me of the night of the cyclone. She is 21 years old, her mother died when she was young, and her father is gone, so she cares for her four smaller siblings. Despite all the hardships she has been through, she smiles at me and is glad to see me.
She says, “The storm taught me a lot. Material things are secondary. What really matters is the life that we all still live.” With her four siblings, she left her collapsing house, on the dark of night of the storm, while around her the trees toppled over. It was very dangerous. It took them more than half an hour to walk to a safe house, a distance which would normally only take a five-minutes. She says, “I thought it was the end of the world. It was awful.”
They have lost almost everything, and their supplies of maize meal and other food have become wet, dirty and unusable. Our Jesuit parish in Beira includes three large slum areas. Here, the cyclone had an easy time with the poorly built cabins and houses. One family of our parish lost four children to the cyclone. Another family was buried under the collapsing roof of their house. Nobody survived. The mother of one of our young Jesuits died too.
Even in the cemetery, during the funerals that followed, everything was still under water.
As soon as I leave the main street of our parish, the paths sink into black mud. Sewer channels overflowed, making everything a stinking broth. Luckily, in the days after the cyclone the sun shone which helped a little bit. But drinking water and food are hard to come by and hunger and diseases are breaking out. Together with the Diocesan Caritas, we have organized the distribution of maize flour, beans, edible oil and sugar throughout our parish. Many people are still in shock, but when I ask them how they are, they say, “Estamos, we are fine.” Life goes on. The children come to play football, we celebrate the service, we dance and laugh, we also have a baptism again.