Sunday, February 7, 2010

The saddest funeral

On Thursday Margaret Jane and I went to the saddest funeral either of us has ever been to. Six hearses were drawn up in front of the church (there were seven men killed in Monday's mass shooting in Milingo, but one was buried in another part of the country). Six coffins were lined up at the altar, each one attended by weeping mothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends, children, friends. The church was full. After the mass, everyone walked in procession to the cemetery, about a mile away, where the six men were buried, where the grief of the families and the community cried aloud.

Now the families of Milingo's dead are praying a novena for their dear ones. This begins and ends with a full night of prayer, usually the rosary, and the prayers continue through the nine nights. Like sitting shiva in the Jewish tradition, the novena gives a formal time and space to grieving.

We have little more information about the crime, except that apparently all were shot by M-16s, and it's clear that the murderers knew where to find their victims, who were at a remote pond. Whatever the reason, it has become another shocking statistic here, where 51 people were murdered in the first 72 hours of February. For the people of Milingo it's not a statistic; there are seven sons who won't come home again, seven faces that won't be seen again, seven families wondering why and wondering if there will be any justice.

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