Yayo eza yayo te
Letter to Friends around the World # 90

From Monday to Friday, Father Peter E. supervises young people in a training centre in Mahagi. On Saturday he spends his day at the prison with his “wounded brothers”, sometimes accompanied by some young people from the centre.

Prison is a world full of tears. Here you see a different reality in the life of men who suffer imprisonment. I found men downcast, abandoned, forgotten. I am there to be like a brother, trying to give them a taste for life in happiness and peace, despite the situation that has brought them to prison. To be there, to listen to them and encourage them to accept their situation and see it in a positive light.

The main difficulty in prison is the lack of food and water to drink. The inmates do not eat well. They depend on the generosity of people visiting the prison: their parents, friends or family members. Sometimes the visitors bring food for one of the prisoners. The person who receives this food always shares it with everyone else. Any food that is given to one person belongs to everyone. Someone has written on the dormitory “YAYO EZA YAYO TE” (in Lingala this means “What is for you belongs to all”).

On the piece of land next to the prison where they are not allowed to go, I have laid out a vegetable garden for them, so that they have something to eat. I’ve planted seeds of corn, beans and onions that a friend gave me. My dream was to share a meal one day with these prisoners. On 8 December this dream became a reality thanks to a friend who gave me money to prepare a meal for them. With some youngsters from the Centre we went to the prison.

The announcement of our arrival changed everything for them on that day. It was a great celebration. One of the youngsters had a bag of salted fish (makayabo). One of the prisoners reacted to this, saying “Atambisi” (even fish!). Many of them had not eaten makayabo for a long time. They jumped for joy when they saw the fish. They began to prepare it themselves with the youngsters. For the youngsters who didn’t know anything about the prison this was a real discovery.

For all of us this was a special day, a Christmas party in the prison. We played music, football, we played cards. When they sang they expressed their magnificat, full of joy and gratitude for this day. One of them said to me “Father, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We have just spent two days without any food, we didn’t expect to eat today, we really didn’t expect to eat, once more thank you.” I thought of my generous friend, and these young people. Together we had helped give life to the world, and reduce poverty somewhere.

Fr. Peter E., Democratic Republic of Congo