OrthoChristian recently published an article on a recent tragic event.
The director of Orthodox Africa, a platform that promotes Orthodox Missions in Africa, was in a village in western Uganda to serve Divine Liturgy in March when he and three companions were involved in a tragic motor vehicle accident. One man was killed, another, critically injured.
The three were traveling in high-volume traffic when a motorcycle with two aboard attempted to pass some vehicles by crossing into oncoming traffic. The motorcycle then veered in front of the mission car that Fr. Silouan was in, and his driver had no time to react, striking the motorcycle, killing one man, and critically injuring the other.
A mob surrounded the scene. Fr. Silouan and his companions were paraded through the streets, abused and cursed. The mob intended to lynch them on the spot. However, cooler heads in the crowd prevailed and convinced the mob to turn the matter over to the police. Fr. Silouan and his companions were then taken to a local hospital and locked in a room for several hours. After paying a bribe for release, Fr. Silouan and the others were released, though his driver was remanded into police custody.
Fr. Silouan gives his account and answers some questions about his work in Africa:
—Fr. Silouan, please tell us about what happened that day.
—On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 5, 2023 we left our mission in Kampala around 4 a.m. to serve Liturgy at our mission in Western Uganda. After Liturgy, we conducted catechism and then headed home at about 2 p.m.. Along the way we were passing through a village that had traffic backed up in the opposite lanes due to taxis stopping for passengers. A man who was riding a motorcycle with one passenger attempted to pass the taxis by swerving into the oncoming lanes right in front of us. Our driver swerved but was unable to miss the motorcycle.
Sadly, the driver of the motorcycle was killed instantly and his passenger remains in the hospital to this day. When we swerved, we drove over a drainage ditch that ripped the front axle off and twisted the frame of the car.
—What will happen if the mission car isn’t replaced?
—It’s hard to say exactly, but the mission work we have been conducting, particularly in Western Uganda, has come to a stop. It’s pretty much impossible for me to properly care for the parishioners in Kampala and travel to the villages for catechism without a car. In addition, our chances of encountering even more tragedies become exponentially higher since the other main mode of transportation here is by motorcycle, which for a variety of reasons is incredibly dangerous. Right now, we’re doing all of our shopping for the mission by motorcycle, which is very difficult and incurs extra expenses because we now have to hire multiple motorcycles to transport everything.
—How long have you been operating Orthodox Africa?
—Orthodox Africa was started in 2015. As one of the founding members, I was appointed as the first Executive Director, a role I have held ever since.
—And in that time, how many missions have you taken aboard your platform?
—Over the last eight years or so we have partnered with seven missions in order to help them become self-sustaining. We are now currently focusing most of our work in Uganda to develop a prototype for what a self-sustainable mission in Africa could look like. This is accomplished largely through trial and error, but hopefully in the upcoming years we will be able to transfer the knowledge learned at our mission center in Uganda across the African continent, and partner with other like-minded missions to spread the Orthodox faith.
—Aside from the urgent need for a replacement car, what are the particular needs of your ministry?
—We still don’t have an actual church in which we can celebrate Liturgy. In Kampala our altar is set up under a water tank stand which provides some protection from rain, but it’s not adequate and we’ve already had several very difficult experiences with unanticipated rain storms. So, as we head into the rainy season here, we need to figure out a way to get inside. Our mission in Western Uganda has a temporary building of sticks and mud with iron sheets for a roof which is quite a bit better than what we have in Kampala, but still not adequate for the long term. So very soon we will be having to raise funds to buy land and build a permanent location for the mission center.
—What about the thirty-eight who were to be baptized before the tragic accident occurred?
—They are all still catechumens and we will do our best to continue to provide for their spiritual well-being, but it would seem that their catechetical and spiritual formation is going to have to be paused until we can solve these issues.
A mission without a mission car is paralyzed. Replacing the mission car that was totaled is an urgent and immediate need. The road conditions in the areas where Fr. Silouan travels require a vehicle with a high clearance that can accommodate passengers, so an SUV is the standard mission car. A mission without catechumens is an empty vessel.
Orthodox Africa provides a vital platform for many missions across Africa. Fr. Silouan’s mission has received dozens of converts, and is charged with 300 more converts who came en masse to the holy Orthodox faith. A mission car is an absolute necessity to accomplish this task.
Please consider helping save Orthodox Africa by donating at the link below. Your contribution will enable Fr. Silouan to continue to bring hundreds into the Christian faith.
Christ is Risen!