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Benin: A Missionary Journey That Transforms Hearts and Minds

Analysis of the missionary experience of eleven young Italians in the heart of Benin and the discovery of a culture that redefines the meaning of community and life

On Monday, September 18, 2023, eleven young people from various Italian cities began an extraordinary adventure: a missionary camp in Benin led by Father Sohouénou Cakpo Edènan Raoul, a Combonian missionary. Their story, titled “Missionary Camp in Benin: The Camp Begins When It Ends!” is an exciting journey through cultural diversity, encounters with each other, and the profound impact Africa had on their lives.

The story begins by settling into the streets of Abomey-Calavi, offering an authentic look at the local reality. Initially tempted to criticize cultural differences, the young people soon experienced an authentic encounter with the “other” through faces like Noël, a two-year-old boy, and siblings like Karl and Caridad, who shared their dedication and affection.

The text reveals an encounter with the religious diversity of Benin, where Catholic Christians, Protestants, Muslims and practitioners of traditional religions coexist. The interreligious dialogue with the imam of Djougou highlights a path of peace and respect among the various faiths.

A significant moment is the visit to Ouidah, a city linked to the slave trade, and the meeting with representatives of the voodoo religion. Understanding voodoo as a religion that teaches goodness and promotes unity adds a layer of cultural complexity.

The heart of the trip is the missionary camp in Toko-Toko, where the youth live with 160 children. Experiences with families in surrounding villages reveal real challenges such as hunger and the absence of an efficient health care system, but also the power of gratitude and joy in life.

The narrative concludes with a reflection on what to bring home from Africa. Questions emerge with no definitive answers, but a profound awareness of the “sickness of Africa” that forever changes anyone who experiences it. The provocative title, “The camp begins when it ends!” underscores that the impact of this experience continues even upon return.

This missionary journey transformed the 11 young people, bringing with it a new perspective on life, community and responsibility. The narrative invites readers to immerse themselves in this unique adventure that challenges cultural perceptions, leaving an indelible imprint on the minds and hearts of those who participated.

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