, 11 September, 2020 / 7:22 PM
The leadership of the Catholic Church in Swaziland is facilitating the distribution of radio sets to deprived persons as one of the COVID-19 response initiatives undertaken in the one-diocese country.
Details of the radio initiative have been provided by the Local Ordinary of Swaziland’s Manzini Diocese, Bishop Jose Luis Gerardo Ponce de León, in his September 7 reflection published on his blog.
Bishop Ponce de León describes the initiative as thinking “out of the box” and the radio sets as “special and God's gift in these trying times.”
The idea to include radio sets in the Diocese’s COVID-19 response, the Consolata Missionary Prelate says, resulted from a brainstorming session when the leadership of the Diocese was exploring what else could be done besides distributing personal protective equipment (PPEs) to the health workers and food to the deprived persons.
“I must confess my surprise when someone spoke about the possibility of buying radios. Really? Is there a need to provide radios to families?” Bishop Ponce de León recalls in his September 7 reflection.
With the government carrying out COVID-19 awareness campaigns through various media platforms in both Siswati and English languages, the 59-year-old Prelate recalls realizing that “unless people have access to that media, the message will not reach them.”
The radio sets are one of five needs the Bishop highlighted in his May COVID-19 appeal when he sought support to bring “vital messages and education into homes by providing radios and batteries in rural areas where there is none.”
As young people in the Diocese visited families to sensitize them about COVID-19, “they checked if they would come across any without at least a radio,” he says in his September 7 reflection.
“As our project targeted the most vulnerable, it was essential to find out if the information being provided by the government was reaching them,” the Argentinian-born Prelate recalls.
Since July, more than 500 radio sets have been distributed to needy families within Manzini, the only Catholic Diocese of the Southern African Kingdom of Swaziland, Bishop Ponce de León says.
He further says that the radio sets will also benefit children and young people who are unable to go to school as they can listen to education programs facilitated by the country’s Ministry of Education.
“These radios are "special" because they should be seen as God's gift in these trying times and should therefore be treated as such. God's blessings always take a special place in our lives,” the member of the Consolata Missionaries who has been shepherding the people of God in Manzini Diocese since his appointment in November 2013 recalls telling the beneficiaries of the radio sets.
In his September 7 reflection, the Bishop further recalls urging the beneficiaries to take good care of the radio sets saying, “While we thank God with words and praise, the best way to show how grateful we are is by the way we care about God's blessings. In this particular case by the way we will look after this gift.”
“I never thought a radio would be so necessary for the most vulnerable in our country and I am grateful to the one who was able to think out of the box when looking for ways to protect them,” Bishop Ponce de León says.
Swaziland, which borders Mozambique and South Africa, has a 5 percent Catholic population, spread across 17 parishes that make up Manzini Diocese.
The Diocese is under the ecclesiastical province of Johannesburg in South Africa and the Local Ordinary is a member of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa