IMBISA international observers: meetings, training and prayer!

Lesotho. National elections will be celebrated tomorrow. Today was a public holiday. Going around today one could see "a normal day". As someone told me in the evening, "if when there is tension, people continue with their daily lives". The atmosphere has been peaceful. 


Our first day in Lesotho (Wednesday) was especially dedicated to meetings. We started at the UN for an update from the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho. The briefed us on distribution of ballot papers, possible problems, security issues and other matters. 

We then met the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Lesotho. It was another opportunity to hear both on the political situation of the country and the involvement of the Catholic Church.

In the afternoon we were welcomed by the acting police commissioner. One policeman was killed at that building at the time of the unrest in August 2014. He took us to the events of last year and shared with us on his view regarding the present and future of the country. At the end we were asked to lead a short prayer with the personnel working at the building. It was a very moving moment for us all as we pray for peace in the country, for healing in our hearts, for peaceful elections and a better future.


The following day (Thursday) we joined around 40 lay people and priests who, like us, have been registered as observers in these elections. We are basically two groups: national and international observers. Some registered under "Justice and Peace" (Catholic Church in Lesotho) and others as members of "IMBISA". 

This training was done for half of the observers. For geographical reasons the other half was having their own in Qacha's Nek (around 400 km away from Maseru).

We worked on the "Code of conduct" issued by the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho (very practical indeed with what to do and what not to do!). We learnt that any organisation who does not present a report at the end of the election process would not be allowed to register again at the next elections. "Justice and peace" gave us guidelines to help them in the preparation of our report. Finally, who to report to if we come across any problems. 


We had two special moments of prayer. The first one was on Thursday evening when the Bishops' Conference of Lesotho celebrated Mass at the Cathedral in Maseru. Three of the local bishops were present (Qacha's Nek could not because of the distance) together with two of the emeritus bishops. Our IMBISA delegation was present too. The Cathedral was full. The archbishop thanked the solidarity of the brother bishops in the Southern part of the continent for their presence in this very particular moment in the life of the country.

The second one was this afternoon when we travelled around 30 km to Roma and prayed at the tomb of Blessed Joseph Gerard OMI, the apostle of the Basotho who is buried there.
"the Basotho have remembered him through all these years since his death. They have loved and venerated him as a model of true Christian life. They have continued visiting his tomb at Roma Mission. And they have relied upon his intercession in the spiritual and material needs of their individual lives and the life of their nation."


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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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