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Brothers Servando Mayor, Miguel Angel Isla, Fernando la Fuente and Julio Rodriguez

31/10/2013: Dem. Rep. of the Congo

Brothers Servando Mayor, Miguel Angel Isla, Fernando la Fuente and Julio Rodriguez were assassinated at the Bugobe Refugee Camp (Congo) on 31 October 1996. They had been working in the huge camp of Nyamriganwe since 1995. They had been organising the education of the children, had helped in the liturgy, had supervised the operation of the grinding mill and had provided help with their vehicle. In their letters and other writings these brothers kept declaring their real love for the displaced people and their strong loyalty to the same; the refugees had become ‘’their family’’.

They had given up their lives to the Lord again; they had heard God’s call in this Calvary like camp where so many persons lived in agony. They liked their new family, the refugees, more than the families they had left in Spain. Like their Lord, they loved up to the bitter end. The evident virtue that shone in and around them was LOVE. ‘’There is no greater love than to surrender our lives for those we love!’’ John, 15:13 And with the Lord they can say: ‘’No-one takes my life from me but I lay it down of myself!’’ John 10:18

They were all Spaniards who went through a very special human adventure. They had left an apostolate for a more difficult mission.

class=imgshadowBr. Benito Arbues, Superior General

Reflecting on what had happened, Brother Benito, the then Superior General wrote, ‘’As your superior I had accepted your decision to stay in the camp although all other occupants were running away. With you I assumed the risks that you were running. But on hearing the news of your deaths I was very saddened by such a painful and brutal end. I grieved for your families and for the damage that your assassins caused to themselves. I am convinced that you forgave them for they did not know what they were doing. We, Marists, forgive them and we pray for them.

Thinking about the four brothers that he himself had sent on mission, and as though speaking to them, Brother Benito continued: I cannot hide that while I was in anguish these last few days, I felt a great admiration for each of you and a great interior joy because you have been Jesus’ witnesses by risking your lives up to a violent death.’’

Jeff Crowe, General Councillor

Brother Jeff Crowe, General Councillor and the one responsible for the contact with the brothers whom he often visited, wrote: “These were four ordinary Marist Brothers, but exceptional. The daily concern to serve the refugees was an exhausting work… with a lot of frustrations. Their comfort was simple and immediate: the smiles and the signs of gratitude of mothers when they finished, exhausted, from distributing food to undernourished children; the times of joy shared with thousands of people who came to survive one day more, the small victories to establish a little more justice...

They shared the insecurity, the grief, the fears and the frustrations of the refugees, without ever slipping into politics, without entering the spiral of hatred… They simply wanted to be with the people who were suffering, incapable of changing the causes of these sufferings. In the most bitter hours for these people, the brothers wanted to be men of faith, of hope and of love.

They did not choose to die. But together with the thousands of people whom they had come to serve, they were the victims of a shameful and repugnant chapter in the history of humanity. Their example is the expression of a fraternity that challenges us more than a thousand words.”

Brother Jeff Crowe looks at their decision to stay in the camp, when all had fled: “Knowing the brothers, it was easy for me to understand their decision to stay. There were a lot of practical reasons to stay close to the refugees until the end: for these desperate people, full of fear, the presence of the brothers was a source of calm and confidence. Then there were times when the refugees had abandoned the camps but they had returned. The brothers wanted to be, for the exterior world, the voice of the refugees who were crying out to the nations about the human catastrophe they were witnessing.”

But there were more profound reasons (in their decision to stay). The brothers had lived so close to these people like “our new family!”, and they identified with them no matter what happened, that the slightest idea of distancing themselves was not only seen in a negative way, but it was taken as an offence. For them it was a question of fidelity to these people whom they loved, fidelity to a mission that they considered to be a privilege (the greatest of gifts, according to Fernando), of fidelity to their vocation as brothers following Christ to the cross. These ideas were constantly part of their community prayer. (Brother Jeff Crowe)

Read more about the Martyrs of Bugobe

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