Remaining faithful to traditional values, but at the same time being up to date…
At the conclusion of the World Meeting for Families in Mexico city, which took place on Saturday, 17th of January, there is among others, the Simango family from Malawi, who shared their experience
The experiences shared by families from five different continents were very moving during the climax of the World Meeting for Families promoted by the Pontifical Council for Families. From Africa, the Simango family, mother, father and their twins, 14 years old, shared, how even though they live in an environment permeated by traditional values, consumerism and the media can easily impose other models and even revoke their precious values and traditions. They shared how important it is to educate our children with respect for traditions, but at the same time, remain open…
Just as in many countries in Africa, the cost of living in our country is continually rising, while the salaries remain the same. As a consequence, more and more people are living below the poverty line. Our shops are full of modern, fancy products: toys, the latest fashions in clothes, cell phones etc., and the advertisements entice us to buy them. And so, instead of trying to combat poverty by creating new opportunities for development, people are getting carried away by these things; but they are frustrated because they cannot afford to buy them.
As parents we feel that it is our duty to teach our children to distinguish between what is and what is not essential for living, for example all those things which they impulsively would like to have. We try to make them aware that technology cannot be a substitute for respecting the things we have, and that we should acquire something new only when it is necessary.
But more than just speaking about it we do this by all of us together drawing on the words of the Gospel. One evening together with the children we spoke about those words of Jesus when He said: “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it to me”. The following day we spontaneously shared with each other how we tried to put these words into practice, and we saw how each of us was able to share something with the others, with the intention of sharing it with Jesus. During my lunch break I helped a student who was having some difficulties; my wife gave some rice to a neighbour who didn’t have any; one of the children lent her pencil and the other lent his eraser to their school companions. When we spoke among ourselves about what we had done the happiest of all were the children who had understood that we don’t need to be rich in order to be able to share.
Margaret (14 years)
In the boarding school we are only provided with basic meals and these are not always sufficient. Last year many of my school companions complained about being hungry and I often gave them what I had brought from home. When I came home for the holidays my mother noticed that I had lost a lot of weight. When she got to know the reason for this she advised me not to give away what I needed, but she gave me something extra so that I could continue to share with the others.
In our culture sharing is considered to be a very important value, as an ancient African proverb says: “… unlike a piece of cloth, food is never too little to be shared.” But because of the influence of the media, many have begun to think that it is wiser to keep whatever they have for themselves.
Another danger which stems from an uncontrolled use of television are the soap operas and the imported cartoons which propose models which are very far from our own culture, especially regarding consumerism and the relationship between men and women.
We have rules in our family, for example no TV during school and only two hours each day during weekends or holidays, being careful about what programmes the children watch. We get a DVD of their choice – making sure that the content is good – which we then share with other families with whom we are linked in our own city and in the rural areas. But above all we speak with the children about what they have seen, so as to awaken a good critical sense in them, “that you may discern – as St. Paul teaches – what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect”(Rm 12,2).
Mario (14 years)
Whenever I was in school I couldn’t wait for the moment to return home so as to be able to spend all the time I wanted in front of the TV. But speaking with my family I understood that this wasn’t true freedom and that sometimes the TV can be a trap. In this way I learned how I could avoid turning on the TV, even for days.
You, oh Mary, who are Queen of Africa, you know that it is a land rich with resources, but burdened with enormous problems: poverty, malnutrition, AIDS, epidemics, conflicts and wars. Bring forth among us wise leaders and keep us faithful to that culture of life which our fathers taught us. The good news of the Gospel is that compendium of human and Christian values which makes us your children and through which we become new men and women. Help us to live it and to transmit it to our children.