Reading of the encyclical “Fratelli tutti” enlightened some of my simple experiences of missionary life in this land of Tunisia. It is well known that here we cannot make the direct proclamation of the Gospel and that life witness and informal encounters with people are therefore a priority.
What struck me in the encyclical and reflects in some of my experiences is similar to what the Pope speaks of a “miracle” of KINDNESS in which “the person puts aside his worries to pay attention, to give a smile, to say a word of stimulus … to console.” (FT 222-224). A small and simple path to walk towards the construction of human fraternity with my Muslim sisters and brothers here in Tunisia.
The first experience was on the streets of the daily fruit and vegetable market in our town that I frequent almost every day, partly out of necessity, partly to meet people. This is how I met an egg seller, a good Muslim with whom I built up a relationship of cordiality gradually; so much so that he recommended me to other sellers saying that I deserve good products!
Last November, after a period of absence from the market, he returned very exhausted physically and sad. He told me that the previous week he had lost two of his sisters in a car accident driven by one of the sisters’ son. He cried and repeated that it was too hard to accept even though the Muslim creed says that if God has established this it is for a good. I could not help but listen and say that I would pray to God for him and his family. A week later, he also lost his younger sister who died of cancer.
Whenever he saw me, even from a distance, he gave me some sign of greeting, and then I approached to listen to him and say a word of encouragement. Now he is better, he has regained his serenity and several times, he thanks me for having said those few simple words to him and for having done it with kindness. This is the term that he used!
During the days of Christmas, he used to tell the other salesmen in his neighborhood, that in those days Christians celebrate the birth of the “prophet” Jesus, and that they had to convey good wishes to me as I do for their holidays.
Similar is the building up of a cordial relationship with a Muslim nurse who works in the Foyer for the elderly where I go to animate a small group of Christians. Our friendship helped her to be attentive also to the spiritual needs of the elderly Christian woman, an Italian descendant, whom she was caring, whom she loved as if she were her mother and whom she respected in the diversity of her faith. Several times the Muslim nurse called me to tell me to go and say a prayer with Mary who was not well and when she died, she thought of putting the Rosary in her hands as a sign of her Christian faith and waited for me at the Foyer to show it to me with pride.
sr. Rosangela Ratti, Tunisia