Comboni Father David Ferraboschi is originally from Italy but has spent some 50 years in Sudan as a missionary.
“When I first arrived in Sudan, there were about sixty of us Comboni missionaries in the country but today we are less than twenty. The mission continues, nonetheless.”
At the age of 79, Father David is still “in the front line” working in the parish of Masalma, in Omdurman. Founded in 1889, it is the oldest current community of Comboni Missionaries in Sudan. However, Father David’s first mission was among the Nuba, in El Obeid and Kaduqli – North Kordofan and South Kordofan respectively.
“There I learned to love this quiet, simple, life-loving and extremely welcoming people. In Masalma, most of the Christians are Nuba who came to escape from the endless conflict that their region suffers. I love this parish. This is where the Comboni Missionaries Sr. Teresa Grigolini and Fr. Josef Ohrwalder, along with other missionaries, were forced to remain as prisoners during the Islamic rebellion at the end of the 19th century. They had a kind of secret chapel where they prayed unknown to anyone, taking a great risk. That is why we wanted to open the parish.”
In 1990, Fr. David’s visa was not renewed since the Khartoum government wanted to reduce the Catholic presence in the country. Fr. David left for Egypt with the hope of soon returning to Sudan. But as the permission did not arrive, he returned to Italy to study at the Pontifical Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies. It was a time to improve his knowledge of Arabic and to study in depth the Qur’an and the Muslim religion. He was only able to return in 1994. He was in Nyala (Darfur) for five years, and again in El Obeid, with the Nuba, for another eight years, before ending up, in 2005, in the parish of Masalma.
His face lights up when he talks about his life there. “I am having a beautiful missionary life. I see that faith in Jesus helps many people to move forward, it stimulates them to overcome the differences between the communities because they feel they are members of a larger group. He talks to people and never seems to be in a hurry.
“Once you get into people’s reality and free yourself from prejudices, everything is easier. It cost me a lot. At first, I was a victim of that desire for people to do what we do and the way we do it… And it is not like that. They have their way of seeing things, their vision, also their defects, as we do, but it is undoubtedly they who are the protagonists and must manage the mission.”