Welcoming people of all faiths to sow the seeds of
non-violence and peace
throughout Africa in the Spirit of St Francis of Assisi

 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  
WHO ARE THE FRANCISCANS?

The Franciscans, numerically, are the largest religious Body in the church and can be found in almost every country in the world. The Franciscans have an exceptionally strong presence throughout the Continent of Africa.

The Franciscans were founded by Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-4 Oct 1226) and Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-11 Aug 1253).

The Franciscan Orders include, (for Roman Catholics), the Friars Minor (Order of Friar Minor (OFM), Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap) and Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv), the Poor Clares; the Third Order Regular and the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO).

Anglicans Franciscans may join the one of three Anglican Franciscan Orders, and other Protestants may join the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans. Those in Northern Europe may be interested in Assisi-Kredsen.


The Damietta Initiative had its origin in Pretoria, which belongs to the Capuchin Franciscan Province of South Africa.

Franciscan Orders
Roman Catholic
First Order of Friars Minor Capuchins
Conventuals
Second Order Poor Clares
Third Order Secular Franciscan Order Third Order
Regular (and the Franciscan Federation)

Anglicans
Society of St. Francis
Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion
Franciscan Order of Céli Dé

Other Denominations:
Order of Ecumenical Franciscans
Assisi-Kredsen


WHAT IS A PACT (Pan-African Conciliation Team)?

A PACT Team is a group of women and men who are religiously and ethnically diverse.

They undergo an experiential training course based on alternatives to violence. Courses are sometimes outsourced to educational teams such as AVP; IFOR Caritas etc.

At a later stage, members of PACT learn the skills of mediation, social analysis and ways of caring for the creation.

PACT groups usually meet together once per month. Among other undertakings, they monitor tensions in their local communities, and seek to pre-empt conflict/violence occurring in their community.

PACT TEAMS throughout Africa is goal of the Damietta Initiative.

 


WHERE DOES THE WORD ‘DAMIETTA’ COME FROM?

Damietta was an important city in ancient Egypt. The name Damietta is a corruption of the ancient Coptic ‘Tamiatti’. It declined with the development of Alexandria after 322 BC. It was frequently attacked by the crusaders and was briefly in their hands (1219-21; 1249-50). In 1219 it was captured by the crusaders under Jean de Brienne after a siege of fifteen months, in which out of 70,000 of its inhabitants, only 3,000 survived. Today, it is a thriving city again. And a summer resort is nearby with 5 km long beach.

For Franciscans this blood-stained city Damietta images powerfully the posture of Francis towards Islam. Damietta was where Francis courageously entered the besieged camp of the Sultan, Malik-al-Kamil, and in a spirit of mutual respect, dialogued with him about the mystery of God. It was here that Francis forthrightly preached non-violence to his fellow Christians, and even predicted that their eventual defeat useless loss of life if an alternative policy was not implemented.


NON-VIOLENCE - WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Franciscans believe violence between religious interest groups may well be a major threat to African stability and progress, now and in the future. The hope of the Damietta Initiative rests on the concerted promotion of a new code of behaviour rooted in the strategy, ethics and techniques of non-violence and transformation. This behavioural change must begin at the grass-roots level. Any African renaissance should include this goal. That is the reason for Damietta Initiative setting up Pan-African Conciliation Teams (PACT)

For the Damietta Initiative Non-violence has specific meanings:

a) Nonviolence encompasses an attitude towards the whole of life, and how people relate to other human beings. It is not to be equated with passivity. It is very active.
b) Nonviolence is the ethical way of acting in today’s world. It is a way of changing the world. It seeks to restore good relationships in the first place, as distinct from the material content of conflict
c) Nonviolence refuses to separate the personal conversion experience from the equally important need for change in social attitudes
d) Nonviolence is reckless love. It is oblivious to what it may receive in return. The law of love, like the law of gravity, works whether it is accepted by the other or not.
e) St. Francis, without any diminution of faith, was able to affirm with his ‘brother Muslims’ some shared human values, a strong belief in the One God, the sanctity of life, the sterility of the violence of the Crusades.
f) The Damietta Initiative continues to question the conviction that violence is a moral tolerable human activity. In doing so, it challenges one of the greatest single moral and philosophical dangers to our world to day, namely, the perennial popular myth that humans are the victims of a biological transmission of evil, which renders them powerless to substantially redirect their history. Such pessimism about human nature is pervasive and extends from the construction worker to professor, from the economist to the politician.
g) The aim of nonviolence is to produce justice, not victory. Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King often said that it was not their goal to have Indians triumph over the British, or black over white, but to have justice and truth triumph over injustice
h) The Damietta Initiative does not demand of people that they must declare themselves pacifists. It says that if peace in Africa is to be preserved, it will be through the efforts not only of pacifists (a prophetic stance people are free to make) but also of peace-minded non-pacifists, who do not renounce war absolutely, but who oppose war in our time on grounds of the humanatarian and the pragmatic.


WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORD 'CHARISM'?

"There are many different gifts but it is always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving but it is always the same Lord. There are many different forms of activity but in everybody it is the same God who works in them all."
(1 Cor. 12, 4-6)

In the writings of St. Paul the term charism has a double meaning. In the broad sense it designates the "gift" of christian life in general received at baptism. In the strict sense it means a particular, specific "gift" received by individuals or groups for
the service and building up of the Christian community. It is in this latter sense that we speak of the charism of religious families, each of which has received from the Spirit through its founder a particular charism to realise a specific mission in the Church.

In the history of salvation God has a loving design for each religious family that gives it its reason for existing, its identity and proper mission. This does not, however, reduce it to a mere instrument, pre-determined for a divine strategy. The "charism" of
religious life is not a rigid structure or programme but a spiritual energy from the Spirit, a power of life to be communicated. It is a dynamic force that incorporates religious men and women into a family gifted with a "charismatic mission".

That is why a founder's charism can never be identified with his or her "works" that are marked by the needs of the founding period. A charism is a living gift, a breath of the creator Spirit at the service of a dynamic history that is never simple repetition of the past. This life power, this spiritual energy should constantly be incarnated in and adapted to the times and places, to the socio-cultural contexts and the needs of people
everywhere.

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