Father Cosmas of Grigoriou (1942-1989), the Apostle of Zaire
Photo from here
John Lappas, from this article about fr Cosmas of Zaire (in Greek). Translate A. K.
...In the face of social problems, this missionary reacted with a spirit of critique and fearlessly, but certainly avoiding all political placements or propaganda of any kind.
Being a responsible spiritual person, he would intervene in various state conventions where he would encounter government agents or regional administrators. He would ask that the populations not be oppressed and the military not be allowed to loot the villages. (A reminder, that especially during the first years of his presence in Zaire, the country was under martial law). He would constantly have in mind the competitiveness between the tribes, which was the result of clashes and social inequality.
As mentioned in his written notes, a Mission should not promote superiority of one tribe above all the others. It is impermissible for Orthodoxy to represent the one or the other tribe (in view of their competitiveness), but instead should be a unifying element between them.
As for the international factor, this missionary presents views that are especially critical towards the Western colonization of past ages in Zaire. He discerns the consequences, not only as regards the level of exploitation of the land’s natural resources, but also of the shaping of the character of the indigenous people and their suspiciousness towards whites/Westerners.
He furthermore denounces the different type of colonization that is more recently being enforced in Africa, by Western countries with their international economic policies.
«Under such oppressive treatment, the ordinary African is disfigured; he is transformed into an unconscious and weaponless rebel, who hates everyone and everything, not knowing where and whom to strike, receiving blows and wounds from everyone, so that he eventually loses his own identity because he has lost his orientation. With such a psychological impasse, the African needs to be -and must be- helped, to find his divine roots, for his soul to be at peace, to become united with God, to love his fellow-man, and then, in peace and tranquility, to decide on his own about his future».
One could regard as a significant event for such a prospect the candidacy of the Neo-orthodox Christian Democrat Party in Zaire’s first democratic elections in 1991, by (doctor by profession) Richard Aimee.
«…We don’t need to graft our civilization onto the African body, with all its sequential cancers. The African has his own, very noteworthy civilization, his own sociability. Except that the missionary must strive very hard to discover it and Christianize it ».
«The missionary must live among the natives, share their problems, eat together with them in their huts and die near them. Only that way will they come to love Christ».
«Living among the simple, humble Africans, I can see that Orthodoxy – with its living mysteries, its ritual splendour and its spirituality – suits the world of the African brethren’s souls. These people, with their mysticism, their introversion, their respect towards their ancestors and their piety are a suitable spiritual ground for the Orthodox teaching».
«The world is with the old systems [he probably means that the population still pursues old methods] and the young are not so keen on pursuing agriculture. But the land is in need, because the people are starving, the earth is not cultivated…».
«We are making attempts to help the people; to teach them to work, to escape somewhat from the poverty he is living in, and generally help the land (with the experiments on the wheat that we are doing) and we are sympathized by the governing side, as well as the opposition, I can safely say…».
More in The Life and Legacy of Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life
The Orthodox Church in Congo & Gabon & the Orthodox University "St. Athanasius the Athonite"
Orthodox Democratic Republic of Congo
We are Going to Live in Paradise: Orthodoxy in Congo
The historical background of the monastery in Kolwezi, Congo (DRC)
...our villages is our tradition
The Life & Legacy of the pioneer missionary Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos
How “White” is the Orthodox Church?
African Orthodox Saints
The Heresy of Racism
The Orthodox Church in Uganda, an outgrowth of indigenous self discovery
Natives Africans bishops in the Orthodox Church