By Francesca Merlo
Every year, for the past 7 years, Coss Chiwalo has represented Malawi at World Youth Days around the world. And every year he learns a lesson that he takes back to other young Catholics on the African continent.
A first for all
So far, says Coss, Panama 2019 has been “very fantastic”. What he is particularly happy about is the fact that Panama seems even further away from his hometown than Europe. He’s been to Italy numerous times but it is the “first time people of Panama will be able to experience our culture”, he says, the Malawian culture.
To love to learn
Lessons given and lessons learnt, it seems Coss loves to teach and loves to learn. Perhaps he has the love for teaching that every teacher should have: the kind that makes the student want to learn. And perhaps that is why one year ago, when Coss Chiwalo visited the Vatican with his African drum, Pope Francis asked Coss to teach him “how to play African drums”.
This personal encounter Coss had with the Pope, he says, is what makes him “always very happy, to be here with Pope Francesco”, he says, having picked up the Pope’s Italian name on one of his many trips to the Vatican.
Blessings, another young Malawian travelling with Coss, also loves the lessons that come from human interactions. His greatest memory so far (and there is still a long way to go before reaching the end) is that he has “interacted with so many people”. He emphasises that it is, in fact, “very, very important to interract with people”. Travelling, knowing each other, and exchanging “ways of God, so that we can improve our spiritual lives”.
These pilgrims exchange thoughts and feelings, and not only the usual material memories, the gifts that the pilgrim tradition calls for. Their gift to this correspondent were two CDs of their own music, recognisable by both Blessing’s and Coss’ faces on the cover of one album, and the face of Pope Francis playing Coss’ African drum as he looks him in the eyes on the other. Perhaps this music is the best way to share both their beloved thoughts and feelings that come from human interraction and the tradition of their beloved country.
Alleluya Band Malawi
This music, so beautifully recorded by Alleluya Band Malawi, is yet another wonder that these young Malawians have brought to Panama. They perform it in the traditional dress that Coss says “attracts so much attention” in Panama’s Parco Bazzara on Wednesday evening.
Young Africans, wearing animal skins and carrying bows and arrows as they sing original African, Catholic hymns, is surely something new to the Panamanian stages and the thousands of pilgrims who have travelled from all around the world. Another day, another lesson.