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5-MISSIO

Missio Scotland challenges the stereotypes of children in Africa

Scotland’s missionary charity sought to banish the stereotype of the sad African child as it conveyed the joy of the continent’s children to a global gathering of Catholic agencies.

Missio Scotland attended the European Holy Childhood Conference in Malta from April 22-25. The conference brought together the Missionary Children (Holy Childhood) sector of the Pontifical Mission Societies—the Pope’s official charity for overseas mission—to learn from each other and take inspiration from the example of St Paul, Malta’s patron saint.

During the conference, each country’s agency was invited to bring a personal object to the altar that represented an event or an experience linked to their work with Missionary Children.

Reflecting on the occasion, Gerard Gough, communications officer for Missio Scotland, explained how the view through his camera lens has opened his eyes to the reality of mission work in Africa.

“I had my first mission experience recently and I took my camera with me to take pictures of the kids. In adverts for charities, I find that the kids often look downtrodden, but when I was looking through the lens the kids challenged our stereotypes. In the West we can portray impoverished countries as places where people need help but where people aren’t useful, when in fact the opposite is true: they actually have much to teach us and that we can learn from.”

To challenge this stereotype, Mr Gough took some of his photos from Missio Scotland’s recent trip to Uganda to the conference, showing the delegates the happy children filled with Faith that live in the developed world.

The delegates also heard a lecture on children’s spirituality by Professor Adrian Gellel, which challenged people to see the intelligent Faith of Catholic young people.

Mr Gellel said that young children can ‘sense the sacred and define their moral sense.’ He added that children are attracted to the story of Christ, and that spirituality needs to be nurtured.

Mr Gough, who regularly visits schools in Scotland, said this was a perspective he recognised in this country’s young Catholics. “Children are a lot cleverer than we give them credit for,” he said. “They are spiritual beings. We don’t need to dumb things down for them.”

He added that he is often surprised by the breadth of knowledge Scotland’s Catholic schoolchildren have about the life and teaching of Christ.

Missio Scotland will now take lessons from the conference to implement new programmes in Scotland. Catholic schools will soon be offered the opportunity to perform a new play commissioned by Missio Scotland on the Church’s saints.

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