Sunday 21 July 2013

The Community of Sant’Egidio continues its battle for life and for the abolition of the death penalty

The Sant’Egidio Community, all over the world, continues to fight hard in defense of the dignity and value of human life, and to abolish the death penalty. Sant’Egidio has participated in mid-June in the fifth congress of the “World Coalition Against the Death Penalty”, a network that brings together the most prominent and active associations fighting for the abolition of capital punishment, but also representatives  of worldwide public opinion, politicians, judges, and journalists; it has reaffirmed through the words of its president, Marco Impagliazzo, that “putting an end to human life means putting an end to hope”;  and has protested against the end of the moratorium in Pakistan and the executions carried out in Nigeria.
As was written by Henry Ezike, the person in charge of Sant’Egidio’s Nigerian communities, “life is a sacred gift that comes from God, every man is to be loved and protected, under any circumstance […] No life can be paid for by the taking of another. There is no justice without life! […] As a catholic community Sant’Egidio will continue to promote the abolition of the death
penalty until it is banished from the history of mankind”.
It is not an impossible dream. Often giant steps in humanity were accomplished by small men, by forces that seemed  weak and minoritarian, but were able to interpret something deep and prophetic. 
For example, this is what happened with the abolition of slavery during the first half of the 1800s. A small creative minority, essentially made up of religious activists, managed to transform the leading slave trading country, the British empire, into the leading abolitionist nation. All this notwithstanding the fact that the trade and exploitation of slaves was extremely profitable. The movement to abolish slavery triggered a real collective change of conscience. Replicated in thousands of examples, wherever possible, the logo for the anti slavery movement, a slave saying “ Am I not a man and a brother?” -  spoke loudly to society as a whole, touched culture and politics and forced them to take a good look at their custom and positions on the matter.
Isn’t the man on death row a human being as well? This is why Sant’Egidio promotes the world day labeled “City for life-City against the death penalty” the 30th of November every year. The hope is that, more than last year, many other cities will join in a battle of life, progress and humanity. 

Monday 15 July 2013

Italy, Germany, Spain, … - The prayers of the Sant’Egidio Community in memory of those who die seeking a better life

This past July 8th Pope Francis carried out his first pastoral visit outside Rome on the island of Lampedusa, a small rock between Africa and Europe, a safe landing for tens of thousands of men, women and children seeking refuge from wars, persecution, misery, an intermediate stage of a journey that for too many (at least 20,000 over the past 25 years) ended in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Pope “felt that he had to go there, to pray, to give a sign of togetherness, but also to awaken the consciences of many in order to ensure that what has happened does not repeat
With the same perspective, in many communities of Sant’Egidio in Italy - in Rome, but also in Catania, Genoa, Naples, Padua, Palermo, Terni, Turin, Treviso, to name only the most recent
ones - and in Europe - Munich and Madrid to name two examples - we remembered those who lost their lives in the journeys of hope to the North of the world. We commemorated “the many brothers and sisters who - as Pope Bergoglio said - were trying to come out of difficult situations to find a little serenity and peace, were seeking a better place for themselves and their families, but found death”.
As was restated by Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, on June 20th, while presiding over one of the ceremonies organized by Sant’Egidio in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, “welcoming the stranger is a divine commandment”.
Faced with the globalization of indifference denounced by the Pope, each believer is bound by a commandment of participation, an attitude inspired at what Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community, has called “the globalization of solidarity”.
A solidarity that becomes emotional commemoration but also concrete assistance to support integration, as witnessed by the service for aliens and refugees organized by many communities of Sant’Egidio. Not only in Europe but also in other continents and in Africa itself, with support for the migrants who travel from Ethiopia and Somalia to South Africa.
Faced with the large scale and sometimes tragic migrant phenomena of our time every Sant’Egidio community around the world wants to reject the “anesthesia of the heart” mentioned by Pope Francis and affirm with him : “It concerns us, it interests us, it is our business”.

Monday 8 July 2013

Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo): The memory of Floribert Bwana Chui

Floribert at the School of Peace
These days the communities of Sant'Egidio all over the world remember the sixth anniversary of the death of Floribert Bwana Chui, brother of the Community of Goma, in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was killed for saying "No" to a corruption attempt in the night between 8 and 9 July 2007.

For a few months, Floribert had worked as a Commissioner for Failures at the OCC, the “Office Congolais de Contrôle”, the state agency that deals with compliance and quality assessments of all goods transiting the Congo. The young man (26 years old) was in charge of destroying the consignments of spoiled food that they had tried to take across the border. A delicate work, subject to pressure.

When, at the end of June and beginning of July 2007, his office intercepted spoiled food and arranged for its destruction, the Commissioner began to receive bribery offers and then threats to pass through those goods, which were harmful to the population’s health. But Floribert, who grew up with the Church of Goma and the Community of Sant'Egidio at  the school of the Gospel, convinced that the law of God was to be respected at the cost of his own existence, did not bend, but resisted and carried out his task.

Just six years ago, on July 2, there was important evidence. The call made by Floribert to sr. Jeanne-Cécile, his longtime friend and doctor at the Goma hospital, "Floribert called me on the mobile phone. It was urgent, he said, he absolutely had to speak, had just been threatened. He asked me, 'Is it dangerous to allow the marketing of food already expired?’ I said to him yes, deterioration sets in motion chemical processes that may harm the human body. At that point I asked him to explain himself better. But what was he talking about? Then he told me that they had tried to bribe him so that he didn’t  destroy the rotten food, that they offered him 1,000 dollars first, then more, up to 3,000. But that he had refused: as a Christian, he could not accept to endanger the lives of so many people. He added: 'The money will soon disappear. Instead, those people who were to consume those products, what would become of them?'. He continued: 'I live in Christ or not? I live for Christ or not? That's why I can not accept. It is better to die rather than accept that money'. So he concluded."

The grave of Floribert
Floribert was killed because he said "No" to a practice probably consolidated, because he may have blown up the well-oiled mechanism that ensures quick and easy gains to a plurality of subjects, both commercial as well as non-commercial ones. Having endured so much the proposed corruption, in terms of threats, and having thus become a real challenge to the power of money and violence, they will think of removing him, in order to return to manage the lucrative trafficking of before.

The young man was able to preserve its freedom in an extremely difficult situation. His was a strong way of living the Christian life. Faith, listening to the Gospel, love for justice, have translated into force in his life experience. A force that is communicated, encourages to resist, opens to confidence in a better world, less slave of money, more free, more just, more humane.

In this perspective, the Community of Sant'Egidio has chosen to dedicate to Floribert both the school open in Mugunga, just near Goma, for the children of that refugee camp, as well as the DREAM center inaugurated in Kinshasa, in the district of Bibwa. Places of attention and care for the weakest and the neediest ones, free spaces in a context characterized by rare payment educational and health services, both the Mugunga school and the Bibwa health center represent well Floribert’s commitment and sacrifice, and stand out like images of a different and better Congo, the Congo that the Commissioner for Failures had dreamed of.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Rome (Italy) - A book covering the forty years of Sant'Egidio service to the elderly

The Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome celebrates this year the beginning of its service to the elderly.
In 1973, in a city that was very different from the current one, in which demographic dynamics surely did not predict a gradual aging of the population, Sant’Egidio had an intuition about what the future would hold. Most of all, it understood the harmful aspects of the world of the elderly, isolation, solitude, the risk of becoming those “wasted lives” Bauman speaks of and which Pope Francis alludes to.
Service has thus become friendship, company, sharing, familiarity. The shelter homes managed by the Community in various Roman neighborhoods as well as in an increasing
 number of cities around the world are a  happy synthesis of Sant’Egidio’s approach to the fragility of old age.
40 years after its inception, the service to the elderly is one of the most widely diffused among communities around the world, not only in the Old Continent but also in the “younger” ones , Africa, Latin America, Asia. Everywhere SantEgidio is present it is close to the elderly, defends their life, accompanies and sustains it.
The 40-year experience of fellowship with the elderly has flowed into a beautiful book by several authors: “La forza degli anni. Lezioni di vecchiaia per giovani e famiglie” (The Strength in the Years: Lessons in old age for the young and the family). An ensemble of essays that reflect upon the condition of the elderly, suggest concrete courses of action, and ask questions about a particular age, its strength and its perspectives.
Yes, age is a strength. Old age, as do all of life’s seasons, has its beauty. As Andrea Riccardi writes in the Introduction to the volume, to be old is not necessarily a shipwreck, it may be a docking in a safe place. The book helps us understand how to live such experience.
This goes beyond the world of Sant’Egidio. Thus far, the book has been presented in various Italian cities, and in dozens of Roman neighborhoods. In municipal offices, parishes, centers for the elderly, rest homes and libraries people of all ages were able to appreciate a wisdom that, though unfashionable, is needed by all because all, we hope, will live to be old. It is a liberation for all of us to learn that “life is not only production”, but “is something richer and more complex”. It is made of affections, hope, exchange. Everyone is needed, no one is wasted. We all need each other’s strength.