"The Color of the Skin Doesn't Matter": A Missioner’s Tale of Faith and Politics in Africa
By: Janice McLaughlin
* Catholic Media Association - Honorable Mention / Memoir
“Sister Janice McLaughlin was dropped into a moment in history, took it, and ran with it. Her autobiography reveals a woman who looked at, listened to, and opened herself fully to the multi-variant voices of her historical time and place, as a Maryknoll Sister, and as a participant in the Zimbabwean struggle for justice and independence. Hers was a life courageously lived according to her favorite Shona word for God—Chipindikure: ‘The One who turns things upside down.’ Read her story with awe and joy.”—Judith Mayotte, PhD, author, Disposable People? The Plight of Refugees
“I felt part of something bigger than myself. I was suffering for a cause, and the pain and fear no longer mattered. I was not alone. I was with the oppressed people, and God was there with us in our prison cells.”
This memoir by Maryknoll Sister Janice McLaughlin tells the extraordinary story of a life spent in service and solidarity with the people of Africa, and how this experience shaped her faith and her understanding of what it means to be human.
The dramatic turning point of her story came in 1977 when she was arrested in then-Rhodesia, where a white minority government was waging a brutal war against the African liberation movement. Sr. Janice, who was working for the Peace and Justice Commission in Harare, was charged as a terrorist sympathizer and held in solitary confinement for 18 days before being expelled from the country. She was later welcomed back to independent Zimbabwe to work on rebuilding the education system.
That was only the beginning of a remarkable life, including work with orphans, those suffering with AIDS, and victims of trafficking, revealing how inextricably her faith was bound with service to the most marginalized and dedication to the cause of justice and human rights.
Maryknoll Sister Janice McLaughlin, who died in March 2021, served in Kenya and Mozambique, as well as Zimbabwe where she is considered a national heroine for her many contributions to education and independence. A former President of the Maryknoll Sisters, she authored a previous Orbis title, Ostriches, Dung Beetles, and Other Spiritual Masters: Wisdom from the Wild.