Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Blantyre - The joy for a pastoral mission in the Malawian periphery

Christmas opens a new time, a prospective of hope and redemption that starts from the infant in a manger, from the “Yes” of a girl of the periphery, from the birth into the world of a baby.
It is also time for novelty and new perspectives for the Community of Sant’Egidio in Africa. In Mpemba, a township about ten minutes by car from Blantyre, the largest city in Malawi, a priest and a deacon of the Missionary Priestly Fraternity of Sant’Egidio received in custody a parish dedicated to Saint Vincent De’ Paoli. It is the first parish that Sant’Egidio is asked to
take care of in Africa.
The priest is Fr. Ernest Kafunsa, a Malawian, to whom the parish has been assigned by the archbishop of Blantyre, Mons. Thomas Msusa. Fr. Ernest will be joined by Frank Gumbwa, he too from the little country in southern Africa.
The Church was fully packed this past December 21st to celebrate the entry of the new parish priest into his parish community. During the very festive liturgy the archbishop expressed his gratitude to Sant’Egidio for the gift bestowed upon the Church of Blantyre as well as his certainty that Fr. Ernest and Fr. Frank will be capable of expressing the paternal attitude and closeness to the poor that they learned and experienced during their training.
The mission of our two friends in Mpemba is clearly a challenging one. The parish’s territory is rather large, straddling the urban and rural areas, and includes, in addition to the principal church, nine outposts (chapels) spread over many directions and located several kilometers
from one another.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Islamabad (Pakistan) - Sant’Egidio in prayer remembering the massacre of the innocent in Peshawar

Today, December 28th, the Christian Churches of the West and of the Orient remember the Innocent Saints. These are the children who died in the place of the Divine Infant, young lives who were robbed of many, many years in an orgy of blood and in a delirium of power.
It is appropriate today to remember once more the children, the adolescents (and the teachers) who were killed a little more than ten days ago in the Peshawar massacre, in that temple of the future
represented by a school. During those days, candle light marches took place and street prayers were seen all over Pakistan. It was a public remembrance felt in the whole country, celebrated by Christians and Muslims together.
The local community of Sant’Egidio also wanted to live that memory. As we can read from the Community’s website, “at the end of the prayer in the Fatima Church of Islamabad, a candle light march, opened by the children of the School of Peace of Sant’Egidio proceeded through the streets of the neighborhood where some Muslim students of the Islamic Ideology Council joined the procession”. In the city square in Sarghoda as well “many lights were lit, one for each of the lives broken by the violence” that tragically runs through Pakistan like it did two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Niamey, Niger - Sant’Egidio’s friendship with minors in prison

One of the most severe challenges that correctional systems of African countries have to address is the issue of minors held in prison.
Living conditions in African jails are already very burdensome for anyone. They include overcrowding, precarious health standards, restrictions on access to food, soap and
clothing, and a certain weakness of available judicial guarantees. For the small population of minors held in African prisons these conditions are even more harsh and penalizing.
What is often missing is a pillar of judicial civilization: the acknowledgment that the minor, even if he has made mistakes, is an inmate with whom one needs to relate in a different manner and whose detention must provide for school attendance and tend towards rehabilitation. What is missing is a different outlook that is open to the future and that may point young people who are disenchanted or desperate in new directions, that may create a horizon and relationships for a humanity that is still childlike, deprived of a normal affective fabric.
It is on this frontier that the African communities of Sant’Egidio curry out their commitment in the minors’ wings of African penitentiaries. It is what the community of Niamey, in Niger, does - for example - as we can see from the Community’s website,www.santegidio.org. We can read that “living conditions in the penitentiary of Niamey are extremely precarious. Inmates, some of whom are extremely young, lack practically everything, from clothes to soap. Food is in short supply as well.”
On Saturday mornings however, with the arrival of their friends from the Community, the outlook changes for those Nigerian kids. “Every visit is a precious opportunity to speak and describe one’s problems, but also to rediscover the beauty of being together: each week the unavoidable football match and the lunch, brought in from outside, which marks a big difference from the everyday menu. Friendship changes people, it alleviates suffering and, awaiting for the following Saturday, allows people to dream of a better life.”

Friday, 12 December 2014

Rome, Italy - The relics of the three Xaverian sisters killed in September in Burundi are delivered to Saint Bartholomew

This past Friday, in Rome, in the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on Tiber Island, a ceremony took place for the delivery of a few objects that had belonged to the three Italian Xaverian Missionaries Sisters of Mary slain this past September in Kamenge, an low-income neighborhood in the periphery of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
Bernardetta Boggian, Lucia Pulici, and Olga Raschietti, all of them elderly, died in the heart
of that Africa to whom they had dedicated their life of mission, helping the last ones until the very end, victims of a crime that has not yet been explained and maybe will never be fully explained.
The three sisters worked with the Xaverian missionaries in the parish of Saint Guido Maria Conforti, promoting the reconciliation among ethnic groups, opening work training laboratories, for the youth and the women of that place. Pope Francis, in remembering their “tragic death” had wished that “the spilled blood would become a seed of hope to build an authentic brotherhood among people.”
The whole life of Bernardetta, Lucia and Olga was a sign of brotherhood, a choice to integrate with God’s people to whom they were sent, to the point of assimilating their language and, with it, their suffering and hopes. Among the mementos that were delivered to the Basilica which safeguards the memories of the witnesses of faith of the twentieth and twenty-first century is the small catechism book in Swahili of sister Olga. She wrote: “In my service as a catechist I meet many young people, adults, children who desire to know Jesus and prepare to receive him in their hearts. They too discover that living in God’s will gives peace and serenity in confronting life.” Also included was sister Bernardetta’s Kirundi version of the Lord’s Prayer and the cross and rosary of sister Lucia which reflect the three sisters’ compassion, i.e. willingness to suffer together with the people of the Great lakes region who are being overwhelmed in these years by the demons of ethnic and predatory violence. Sister Bernardetta had said: “We are happy to be a Church which, sustained by the Gospel, announces, denounces, serves, comforts, and remains the point of reference for all of the people. The gratitude showed to us by the people because we stand by them
even in the face of the current difficulties gives us joy”.
Their bodies were buried in African land as they had wished. Sister Lucia had written: “I have already warned: if I die, leave me there. I have always desired to die in Africa in order to be resurrected on the last day together with the African people, the people to whom the Lord has sent me”. Their memory transcends boundaries and time and becomes a call to love and to the giving of oneself. The website of the Xaverian missionaries states: “The assassin did not take anything away from Lucia and the other sisters, did not truncate their mission but instead brought it to fruition. He allowed them to say the last word, to give their life all the way to the end. He thought he was stealing their life but they had already donated it”.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Marco Impagliazzo elected again as President of the Community of Sant'Egidio

Sunday December 7th Marco Impagliazzo was re-elected President of the Community of Sant'Egidio. 
Professor of contemporary history at the University for Foreigners of Perugia, Italy,
incumbent President of the Community, Impagliazzo was chosen with a broad consensus of the 220 delegates of the different families of Sant'Egidio spread worldwide. 
The electoral assembly was held both “live”, in Rome, both in connection, via streaming, with many Italian, European, African America and Asian cities. A procedure that reflects the growth of the Community, started in Rome in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi and now spread throughout the continents.
Thanking the assembly that had renewed its mandate, Marco Impagliazzo announced he would keep going on his service along the path indicated by Pope Francis in his recent visit to Sant’Egidio heart in Trastevere, the path of the three “p” (prayer, poor, peace). 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Balaka (Malawi) - Village traditional chiefs say "No!" to death penalty

On Saturday, November 22, the Community of Sant’Egidio gathered several village chiefs from three Malawian districts, in the country’s city of Balaka, for a meeting entitled “No to death penalty - no justice without life”. The meeting was intended to raise awareness among Malawian local authorities and civil society on the need to oppose the death penalty.
Malawi’s legal system provides for judicial authorized killing as punishment for certain crimes, even though there has been a de facto moratorium on executions for many years. Malawian village heads, who have repeatedly argued about the importance of keeping in force the death penalty, are held however, in high regard in the country’s rural areas, for in addition to having a certain degree of legislative power within their respective villages, they also enjoy representation in Parliament.
This meeting, which brought together several members of the local Community of Sant’Egidio and around 30 village heads from the districts of Balaka, Liwonde and Mangochi, took place in an atmosphere of open dialogue. The debate began with a report by Mark Tengani, head of Sant’Egidio in Balaka, wherein he illustrated the Community’s commitment in recent years, particularly through its movement “Cities for Life”, to the abolition of Malawi’s capital punishment. While initial arguments in support of lawful executions were proposed by various Traditional Authorities, the legal and moral discussions in favor of abolition ultimately persuaded all participants on the need to seek the legislative withdrawal of the death penalty in the Republic.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Schools of Language and Culture of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a journey of integration and encounter

Over the past days we celebrated, with moments of festiveness, testimony and debate, the 30 years of the School of Language and Culture of the Community of Sant’Egidio in many locations in Europe in which local ecclesial entities are engaged in this service for the integration of the “new Italians” and the “new Europeans”. In Rome, Naples, Novara, Barcelona, etc., we focused on a history of friendship and inclusion in favor of the many who
have recently arrived in Europe from the South of the world, but also of the citizens of the Old Continent.
In fact, schools not only represent a key for accessing the new world to be explored by the migrant, and facilitate his search for a job and a more decent accommodation. Schools are also the main instrument thanks to which we are able to go beyond our differences, discover similarity in otherness, and find a common meeting ground that keeps away the temptations and risks of contraposition. School is the front on which the battle for integration and coexistence is won among men and women that are different and live in a global world and in liquid times.
The following words were used by Pope Francis in last Sunday’s Angelus, which made reference to the tensions among residents and immigrants recently recorded in Rome and other cities: “The Christian community must endeavor in a concrete way to insure that there be encounter and not confrontation. It is possible to dialogue and listen, make plans together, and thus to overcome suspicion and prejudice and build a coexistence that is ever more safe, peaceful and inclusive.” These words are the precious indication of a journey based on common sense and wisdom. Instead of staying behind to poison the wells of coexistence it is time to set ourselves on a path that may restore social fabric and prospective to the daily life in difficult urban contexts such as those of the larger European cities.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A book on the life and death of Floribert Bwana Chui

It has just been published a book on the life and death of Floribert Bwana Chui, a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, who stood firmly in July 2007 against a proposal of corruption in order not to let some unhealthy food pass
the border and be distributed among the population: “The price of two clean hands”
Floribert Bwana Chui was a young believer, outgoing and optimistic, living adulthood in the Democratic Republic of Congo just emerging from civil war. Before graduation from college, he knew the Community of Sant'Egidio and was fascinated, so as to arouse in Goma a local community, rooted in prayer and service to the poor. He was particularly passionate about the world of street children. Floribert believed that he and the other members of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Goma could be the prophets of love and gratuitousness, the heralds of a new perspective, a new way of thinking. Active in politics, he dreamt of an intercultural society in which all peoples can live in peace. At the age of 25 started to work in the Congolese Agency ensuring the quality of goods in and out of the country.
Floribert wanted to work with integrity, despite living in one of the most violent and corrupt  context in the world. When some people offered him thousands of dollars to accept a lot of rotten rice passing the border, the young man refused. And continued to do so even when threats followed. "As a Christian I can not allow it; better to die, than to risk people's lives," he said. His ethics prevented him from ceding to those offers and threats. But it meant the death for him.
Martyr of integrity in face of corruption, Floribert shows a way of redemption for Congo and Africa.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo - A “yes” to life that needs to come from the people and the younger generations

Pope Francis stated this past October 23rd: “We live in times in which… people are instigated towards violence and revenge, both public and private [and] there is a tendency to deliberately create enemies. [But] it is impossible to imagine that States today have no means other than the death penalty to defend other people’s lives from an aggressor. The arguments against the death penalty are many and are well known. The Church has appropriately emphasized some of them. All Christians and people of good will are therefore called today to fight … for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, in all its forms.”
The Community of Sant’Egidio, as is well known, has been fighting for some time against
the death penalty. It does so by promoting public awareness campaigns - such as the “Cities for Life” campaign - aimed at winning over the hearts and minds to a more general repudiation of violence, revenge and scapegoating. 
Work of this kind is precious everywhere but it is even more important in Africa where unfortunately, in addition to legal executions, which are actually rare, we record many cases of extrajudicial killings and lynchings. 
Therefore the community of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has launched a campaign to mobilize people in support of life and against any form of violence, whether perpetrated by the state or carried out from below, by the people.
The campaign started by involving the younger generations which represent the future of the country and of the continent, a future that we all hope will be less violent and more friendly to life and human rights. Many high school students together with their parents
participated in conferences on the death penalty in Bagira, a location near Bukavu, discussing ways to create and spread a new culture of life.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Japan and the Philippines - Against the death penalty, for a justice that is respectful of humanity and life

Over the past two weeks two important conferences have been focusing on the Asian cultural debate on the death penalty. They were organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio in the context of the “Cities for Life” campaign. The conferences which took place in Tokyo and Manila during these past days provided an opportunity to discuss, in an elevated and in-depth way, human rights, the value of and respect for life, and the abolition of the death penalty even in the continent in which the majority of states, still today, continue to contemplate it in their laws. 
In Manila, the delegates of a variety of Asian countries - the Philippines, obviously, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia - thirty mayors of cities who have joined “Cities of Life”, and representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, endeavored to build a dialogue platform useful to those countries that have recently abolished the death penalty or are about to embark on a journey to a moratorium on executions. The point is to rediscover, while fully respecting the Asian cultural and religious heritage, those values of humanity and justice that are at the heart of those populations as they are of all populations. 
Similar themes had already been addressed the previous week in Tokyo, in the halls of the Diet, the Japanese parliament. There, representatives of the institutions, activists from the
campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, witnesses to the injustice and arbitrariness of the latter, together with Mario Marazziti, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Italian parliament and Alberto Quattrucci, of the Community of Sant’Egidio, had emphasized the human and legal magnitude of the challenge represented by abolitionism.
The meeting in Tokyo included a highly emotional moment with the intervention of Iwao Hakamada who spent 46 years on death row as an innocent man: “Ten thousand days without leaving my cell” he stated (you can read about this on www.santegidio.com), “without knowing if, on the other side of the door, there was the attendant bringing me dinner or the firing squad”.
A wind of humanism and life blows therefore in Asia, just while we record the authoritative words of Pope Francis who, at a meeting with members of the International Association for Criminal Law, invited “all Christians and people of good will to fight for the abolition of the death penalty, be it legal or illegal, and in all its forms”. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Rome, Italy - Sant’Egidio and the Synod fathers remember persecuted Christians

The Synod of Bishops on the family has recently ended. It was summoned - as Pope Francis said in his homily for the beatification of Paul VI - “to respond with courage to the numerous challenges of the present”, to “take care of the wounds that bleed and to reignite the hope of many people without hope”.
Among the wounds in the heart of the Church one is certainly the difficult condition experienced around the world by many Christians who endure marginalization, discrimination and persecution. This is among the issues being addressed on October 20th, in the presence of the Patriarchs of the East, in the Consistory which also discusses the Christians in the Middle East and the commitment of the Church for peace in that region.
In the same spirit, on Sunday October 12th, in the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew, the Synod fathers from Europe, Africa and Asia prayed together with the Community of Sant’Egidio,
commemorating those who lost their lives for the Gospel and invoking peace and protection for those who are being persecuted in our time. 
Remembering the Christians who suffer in the Middle East and elsewhere, Cardinal Schonbom, archbishop of Vienna, said: “Martyrdom is also history and testimony of the profound unity among the Churches in the midst of tribulations”. It is a unity which is plastically visible in a Basilica whose side chapels house relics of martyrs from all persuasions and celebrate consistently a history of both suffering and redemption, the two faces of the 1900s and of the century that just began.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Conakry, Republic of Guinea - DREAM Program against Ebola too

On the website www.dream.santegidio.org the last published page focuses on the commitment that the DREAM project, created to address the AIDS pandemic in Africa, is now turning against the outbreak of Ebola virus, in particular in the Republic of Guinea.
Ebola infection is unfortunately booming in West Africa. Since last March there are about 7,000 infected and more than 3,000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
In the Republic of Guinea, especially in Conakry, Dobreka and Fassia, DREAM has to cope with a major emergency. Panic is large, people are suspicious of everyone, afraid of getting
closer to health facilities.
DREAM has therefore enhanced prevention measures (hand washing with chlorinated water, gloves, masks, etc., for sampling and laboratory analysis) to protect both staff and patients, and the ones who were no longer attending the appointments have been contacted. The Program also began a campaign of health education and awareness about the routes of transmission of Ebola virus and the appropriate preventive measures.
It’s important that in this time DREAM centers continue to be a reference, especially for those who are afraid, confused, not knowing what to do.
DREAM has been included in the protocols for epidemiological surveillance in three prefectures of Guinea. The Program will carry out screening for AIDS patients and their families, monitoring those who have had a contact with a person with Ebola or who have symptoms referable to the disease.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Bujumbura, Burundi - The elderly are at the center of Sant’Egidio’s commitment to that country

On October 1st, we celebrated the International Day of the Elderly, established by the United Nations in 1990. For the occasion, the Sant’Egidio Community of Burundi gathered all those - institutional or other - who are interested in the elderly’s condition to reflect on the social protection of the elderly in Burundi.
Burundi is one of the youngest countries in the world, with a fertility index of 6.4 children per woman and a population growth rate of 3.1%. On the other hand, the increase in life
expectancy, the improvement of living conditions, etc. suggest that over the coming decades the population will experience a very rapid aging process. It is therefore important that the key national players in Burundi assess the current reality and future prospective of the elderly in that country. A vision for the future is necessary.
At the center of the conference organized by Sant’Egidio were the social protection of the elderly in Burundi and the attitude of those around them.
Today, support for the elderly is primarily based on family networks. The overwhelming majority of the population in Burundi does not have a retirement option, as the term is used in the North of the world. Pensions are restricted to public employees and a few employees of the private sector. There is also no guarantee for the elderly in terms of health services under Burundi’s welfare system. It will be necessary therefore to “sensitize the nation” promoting greater protection for the elderly and develop a more empathetic outlook towards the old Burundians. This had already been stated in February in a similar workshop attended by Mons. Matteo Zuppi. Far from being a problem or a burden, the elderly are - quoting his presentation from a few months ago - “a resource for society”, because it is time to build or strengthen “an alliance among generations”.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Abuja, Nigeria - Working for peace in times of violence

The representatives of the different communities of Sant’Egidio in Nigeria gathered a few days ago in Abuja, the capital of the African giant, to reflect on the challenges facing the church association in the country. In particular they addressed the need to take on the responsibility to testify and communicate peace even in a context marked both by pervasive
violence and - most of all - the threat from the Boko Haram movement, whose terrorist operations shield themselves behind a religious vocabulary.
The representatives asked themselves how to ensure for Nigeria a future of peace, how to establish relationships built on friendship and reciprocal respect with religious leaders, the members of the different faiths, the youth, and how to be a seed of dialogue and of a unifying and compassionate perspective for society.
The Nigerian communities intend to fully live up to the mandate that Pope Francis gave Sant’Egidio on the occasion of his visit to the Community in Rome on June 15th, by implementing the three “Ps” mentioned by the Pope: “Go forth on this path: prayer, the poor and peace. And proceeding this way promote the growth of compassion in the heart of society, and of friendship in the place of the ghosts of enmity and indifference.”   

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Old age as a decisive turning point in the Church and in society

Today, Sunday, December 28th, the Community of Sant’Egidio participated to the great meeting called by Pope Francis with the elderly and the world’s grandparents in Saint Peter’s square.
The event had two phases, the first in the form of testimony and dialogue, the second with the eucharistic liturgy. At the center of the occasion was the “blessing of a long life” as
recited in the title of the initiative.
The participants included the elderly of the Community of Rome, together with all those involved in helping the elderly who suffer or are most lonely, in the elderly foster care homes of Sant’Egidio, in the longer term health care institutions and clinics, and in the fabric of the Roman neighborhoods. They converged in the early hours of yesterday morning towards Saint Peter for a day-long event that says “No” to a culture of rejection and “Yes” to a care for life that involves everyone and accompanies everyone.
Because, as Mons. Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, stated to the Vatican Radio, “the elderly are not “waste”, actually they are at the heart of the Church. [There is] a decisive aspect in this age, in the old age, for the life of the families, of the Church and of our society.” 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Poland – Pilgrimage of the young members of the communities of Sant’Egidio from Eastern Europe, to say no to violence and yes to coming together and peace

The young members of the communities of Sant’Egidio of Eastern Europe have recently completed a pilgrimage to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, in Poland.
The camp, enormous in size, was the largest of those used by the Nazis during World War II to exterminate European Jews. It has been calculated that no less than one million and a half Jews, men, women and children, died there, either immediately upon arrival at the railway ramp where the first selection took place or after months of inhuman exploitation in inconceivable living conditions.
Together with the Jews, tens of thousands of Roma were also eliminated by the German SS, together with other men and women thought to be inferior and not deserving to live. 

Eastern Europe’s younger generations do not know enough about what happened not too long ago in a continent that is overall at peace today but whose history is saturated with wars and whose future is threatened by the resurgence of conflicts.
In a silent march, young people from Russia and Ukraine (today, as is well known, these two countries are divided by the conflict that is occurring in the eastern part of Ukraine), Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Georgia, were led from the main entrance gate of the camp to the monument near the cremation ovens where two floral wreaths were placed, one in memory of Jewish victims and the other in memory of Roma victims.
The ceremony followed the assembly that took place on the previous day during which the
hundreds of young members of Sant’Egidio were able to listen to the testimony of two former Auschwitz prisoners who survived the extermination: a Romanian Jew, Mordechai Peled, and a Rom woman, Rita Prigmore.
“Say no to violence” Pope Francis said yesterday in Albania, addressing the young in the audience, “say yes to the culture of coming together and peace”. This is what these young people from Eastern Europe will be able to do best from now on, building on the memory of what has happened in the past, and living the dream of a humanity that no longer breaks up into races and peoples, but comes together in the search for peace and good.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Antwerp peace prayer is being relived in many locations around the world

If - as Pope Francis stated - current events are tragically marked by a war that is fought as a series of chapters, of episodes, it makes sense for the communities of Sant’Egidio around the world to live the spirit of Assisi in many locations, in a series of steps, reflecting the image of peace, memory and unity that comes from the ceremony at the Grote Markt of Antwerp. They do so by continuing to elaborate, in different contexts, on the message in the prayer for peace of this past 9th of September, as is well illustrated on the Community’s website, www.santegidio.com.
Events similar to those held in Antwerp have taken place over the past days in several locations: in Mexico, at the Jesuit-managed Universidad Iberoamericana, with in mind the
background of endemic violence that bloodies the central American region; in Cameroon, where Christian and Muslim leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to continue on the path of interreligious dialogue and friendship (notwithstanding the fundamentalist threat from Boko Haram) and to commemorate the victims of the Ebola epidemic; in Cuba, for the first time, in a particularly inspiring ceremony that replicated the one in Antwerp and ended in the splendid scenery of Plaza de Belén at La Habana Vieja; but also in Nakuru, Kenya, on the occasion of the anniversary of the terrible attack of Westgate in Nairobi; and finally in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in one of the eyes of the hurricane, of the
violent storm that is shaking the world. Representatives of religious groups and of civil society participated in the round tables and in the final ceremony in Place de la Paix, affirming that the building of a peaceful society is everybody’s responsibility.

This is what has occurred so far, but new prayers for peace are being organized, the spirit of Assisi continues to blow and becomes a commitment that must be sustained throughout the coming year. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Bujumbura, Burundi - A summer of solidarity on Lake Tanganyika

On September 1st, the feast of Sant’Egidio, the Community of Bujumbura organized an excursion to the shores of lake Tanganyika with its indigent friends (elderly who are living alone and street children).
The aim was to offer them the opportunity to spend a different type of day, somewhat removed from the city, on breathtakingly beautiful beaches which are not easily accessible to poor people.
Many of the elderly who participated in the trip had gone to Bujumbura during the civil war. Now they are older, without a family and thus without support. The Community has become
their only point of reference, a family that gives them back hope and a future and also offers them an occasion for a free and happy day.
The same freedom and the same joy were also experienced by the street children who immediately took over the beach and fully involved themselves in football and other games. Unfortunately, there are many street children in the city of Bujumbura. This too is a painful legacy of the civil war. They are war orphans or children of fighters who have gone missing. The Community does not despise them, does not reject them, but gathers them in the Schools for Peace, takes them to places to play and have fun which are often accessible only to the children of the wealthy. 
For the members of the Community of Bujumbura this was a nice way to live the feast of the saint whose name they carry, an abbot who, according to the legend, protected the poor and the weak. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Gorongosa, Mozambique - Sant’Egidio’s commitment to promote reconciliation and peace

While in various regions of the world the threats to peace are rising, after an August marked by the news coming from Gaza, northern Iraq, Ukraine, and during the days in which we remember the 100th anniversary of World War One and of the outbreak of World War Two, it is comforting to register the fact that some conflicts are dying out and that the demons of war can be shackled by reasonableness and reconciliation.
Yes, peace is possible, peace can be the present and the future. This is shown by what is happening in the forests of central Mozambique, in the Gorongosa region. There, Mons. Matteo
Zuppi, auxiliary bishop of the Roman diocese and Carlo Calenda, the Italian Deputy Minister for economic development, met with Afonso Dhlakama, leader of RENAMO and historical opponent of the governing FRELIMO. During the past few months, Dhlakama, having fought a few decades ago a long guerrilla war, was in some ways tempted to return to fighting.
As they did 22 years ago - on October 4th, 1992, the peace that brought an end to the Mozambique guerrilla war was signed in Rome - the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Italian government worked to reach an agreement that would recreate the modus vivendi between the two sides for the good of the country and in view of the elections of mid-October.
After the conclusion of the negotiations in Maputo, the meeting in Gorongosa made it possible to iron out the last remaining difficulties. The leader of RENAMO expressed its desire to return to the capital and work on the implementation of the agreements. A similar commitment has been reaffirmed also by the sitting President, Armando Guebuza. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Rome, Italy - Prayer vigil for the Christians being persecuted in Iraq

On August 15th, the day of the Feast of the Assumption, the Community of Sant’Egidio of Rome gathered together for a prayer vigil for the protection and safety of the Christians being
persecuted or threatened in Iraq and Syria.
We thus joined with the prayer intention promoted by the Italian Church following the exacerbation of the situation in Northern Iraq and with the many appeals issued by Pope Francis himself in defense of those that are persecuted because of their faith:  “The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; people massacred; violence of every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies. All this gravely offends God and humanity”. These are some of his words.
The Community of Sant’Egidio has been following for some time the life of the Christian communities in the Middle East and in particular in Iraq. During the 1980s approximately ten thousand Chaldeans - the Chaldean Church is one of the most ancient of Christianity and is one of the Churches that is present in the area -  who were fleeing from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and the war with Iran, were helped by the Community to find a safe haven in the Middle East or in the West. Other solidarity and assistance initiatives were carried out on behalf of Iraqi Christians, in particular in support of hospitals and centers for the elderly in Baghdad, Karakosh and other cities. Remembering this history of closeness and help many Chaldeans attended the prayer at Saint Bartholomew and animated the vigil with their chants.  
Saint Bartholomew on the Tiber Island was not chosen without reason, being the memorial of
the Christian martyrs of our times. The basilica holds, among others, the relics of two victims of Christian repression in Iraq: Fr. Raghid Ghanni, killed in Mosul in 2007 together with three subdeacons (his robe was placed on the altar together with the Scriptures during the celebrations) and Mons. Bulos Faraj Raho, Chaldean bishop of Mosul, who was kidnapped and died in captivity in March 2008.
The hope is that this prayer, together with the mobilization and prayer of many others, may stop the violence that is being inflicted on Christians, on Yazidis (a very particular religious minority that lives in the area), on the Muslims themselves (some 15 Sunni imams and ulemas have been killed in Mosul because they defended the Christians of that city) and may create a different outlook. It is necessary to overcome the temptations of indifference and resignation, to find paths of peace and assurance that will preserve a millenial pluralistic presence, a tradition of coexistence that has never been in as much jeopardy as it is today.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Seoul, Korea - Sant'Egidio attending the appointments of Pope Francis’s visit

The representatives of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Asia too - from Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Cambodia - are attending the appointments of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit that is taking place on these days in Korea. 
“Here in Seoul, we are many, engaged in several activities: we have moments of prayer for peace and reconciliation, and then meetings with the poor”, said one of the Sant’Egidio
participants to Radio Vatican. “We live the joy of being part of the beautiful church in Asia, definitely alive, which has the same breath of the other Christians in the world. A church that stresses the value of life, here in Asia, communicating attention, love, closeness, especially to those who are weaker - I think of the poor, the elderly -. The Gospel is a joy and a responsibility for every disciple, as well for us, the youth”. 
If it is true that Asia is the future - or one of the many futures - of our world, actually we hope that the enthusiasm we have seen in the recent days, during Francis’ visit, the involvement of Christians or not, the desire to hear different words, of peace and solidarity, from the Pope, well, may all that be also a part of the days to come. May these feelings accompany a globalization that risks not to have a soul, a progress that risks to be just simply material, a desire for wealth that risks to make us blind towards the others. 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Sant’Egidio celebrates the ‘Id al-Fitr with the Muslim poor

Muslims all over the world have recently celebrated the ‘Id al-Fitr, the feast of breaking the fast, that marks the end of the sacred month of Ramadan, dedicated to fasting, prayer and helping the poor.
The Community of Sant’Egidio expressed its best wishes for this event to all of its Muslim friends and endeavored to ensure that those among the poor that would not have had the
opportunity to do so could celebrate the ‘Id, both in Muslim countries such as Indonesia (see the picture of the Iftar celebrated with the homeless who, though living in truly difficult conditions still rigorously observe the fasting) and in the West (see the picture of the family-like dinner that took place in the Ponte Galeria center for identification and expulsion).
An Egyptian young man held at Ponte Galeria was moved by the experience and said: “Thank you for thinking about us: we are brothers,
Christians and Muslims”.  
This is in fact the meaning of this sign of friendship that was also experienced in various forms in other parts of the world by local Sant’Egidio families, in the spirit of the message issued a few days ago, in the occasion of the ‘Id, by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: “Let us work together to build bridges of peace and to promote reconciliation. May our friendship always inspire us to cooperate to confront the many challenges [that are before us] with wisdom and prudence. That way we will be able to help decrease tensions and conflicts, and advance the common good. We will also show that religions can be a source of harmony for the good of society as a whole. Let us pray that reconciliation, justice, peace and development remain our key priorities for the wellbeing and the good of the entire human family.”

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bukoba, Tanzania - Conferences in schools, towards a movement of Youth for Peace

The communities of Sant’Egidio of Tanzania intend to live out the commitment to which the entire movement present in the states of Eastern Africa has been called to by the recent
meeting in Bujumbura in Burundi as explained in the www.santegidio.org website. It is the commitment to continue to go forward on themes of prayer, the poor and peace, the commitment to transmit to the younger generations a different sensitivity with respect to the weaker sectors of society (elderly and children) and to build in the continent a Christian humanism made of culture and compassion. 
A series of conferences to introduce Sant’Egidio and its work have taken place over the past few days in various Tanzanian cities, in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and especially in Kagera, the region that has Bukoba as its capital and that neighbors Rwanda and Burundi. Hundreds of secondary school students, from public and private schools, were able to listen to a proposal of
a Gospel of fraternity and service, attentive to the needs of the poor, open to broader horizons than the usual ones. In an atmosphere of keen attention, they asked questions addressing the concrete dimension of the context in which they live as well as the broader scenarios confronted by Sant’Egidio.
The hope is that a network of communities in secondary schools can be born out of these meetings, a Tanzanian “Youth for Peace”, a “Vijana kwa Amani” (in Swahili), that could join the movements that already exist in many African countries, in particular in Malawi, in the Ivory Coast, in Rwanda, in Mozambique.  

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso - BRAVO! workshop: “Help me to exist!”

The Community of Sant’Egidio launched some years ago a global programme named BRAVO! (Birth Registration for All versus Oblivion!) in order to facilitate the registration of children in the developing countries. According to UNICEF estimations the number of unregistered children every year is close to 50 million (2007). Sant’Egidio works with the concerned Government ministries and departments, assisting them in building capacity of the civil registration systems and creating awareness among parents and children, adopting a balanced approach between service provider (Government) and the beneficiaries.
As we can read in Sant’Egidio and BRAVO! websites, (www.santegidio.org and www.bambini-invisibili.org) birth registration is remarkably placed in the everyday life of a person; it gives rights; it protects people. Unregistered children are more vulnerable than others: the likelihood of trafficking of these children, and abuses of different kinds - ranging from sexual abuse, engagement in armed conflicts to labour and early age marriage, etc - is higher than of those registered at birth. It is thus rightly considered as an effective means of child protection.
One of the countries where the program is more active is Burkina Faso. In that country the collaboration between Sant'Egidio and public institutions has proved particularly effective, and
two million people have been registered in recent years. That's why in Ouagadougou, the capital city, was held in July the 4th BRAVO! Training Course “Aide à moi exister!”, “Help me to exist”, a formation period for registration operators among civil servants. Over 350 of them took part in the training, presidents and vice-presidents of the district courts, qualified representatives of local health services and maternity, employees in registration offices, etc..

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Ceuta, Spain - The closeness of the communities of Sant’Egidio to the asylum seekers of the Holding Center

Ceuta and Melilla are two small Spanish towns in Africa, surrounded by Moroccan territory. These are the only outposts of the European Union in Africa and thousands of men and women of all ages head there in search of an opening in the frontier that separates the wealthy world of
the North from the wretched landscape of the South.
Europe, so close yet so distant. For years now there have been repeated en masse attempts to break in. In the last such attempts, just a few days ago, many refugees and migrants were brutally hit, according to various witnesses, by Moroccan police, while their Spanish colleagues stood by. The Madrid government has put in place metal fences and various other systems to dissuade or repel the assaults of those who hope to find dignity, freedom and security under a new sky. Ceuta and Melilla are another wall of our apparently global - but often pieced up - world village, as witnessed by the border between the United States and Mexico, the barbed wire system separating Greece and Turkey and many others ....
The border at Ceuta is a place of suffering for many. In January, a Spanish delegation of the Community of Sant’Egidio visited the CETI (Temporary Holding Center for Immigrants) in the Tangiers area, in Morocco, along the barrier that surrounds Ceuta. The CETI of Ceuta houses more than 500 asylum seekers
from sub-Saharan countries. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about the conditions of the many who attempt to enter Europe and of the few who succeed.
The bond established with the guests of the CETI must not be broken because, as is written in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, a prisoner and you came to visit me”. On June 21st a few members of the Community of Madrid organized another visit and a get together with the asylum seekers of the CETI.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Maputo, Mozambique - The DREAM Center of Matola 2 is named after Ana Maria Muhai, one of the first activists of the Program started by the Community of Sant’Egidio

The new DREAM center, specialized in the prevention of mother-infant HIV transmission and in the treatment of HIV-positive children in Matola 2 - a densely populated suburb of Maputo - has
just been named after Ana Maria Muhai, one of the first activists of the Program.
Ana Maria Muhai, already severely ill, had been able to take advantage of the free treatment provided by DREAM in Machava (Maputo) during the first months of 2002 when the Program was initiated with the goal of ensuring even in Africa those diagnostic and treatment capabilities available in the West, a profound innovation at that time.
Thanks to the treatment she received, Ana Maria recovered thereby evoking surprise among those who had seen her wither and come closer to death. That resurrection experience had engaged her deeply, inducing her to dedicate herself to ensure that many other sick people would trust the treatment and would receive adequate care.
Ana Maria had become a vigorous witness, one of the best known and most representative of the DREAM Program, appearing at the U.N. to support universal access to treatment. A brave and tireless woman, she had believed that the DREAM Program could transform itself from a “dream” to the real future of so many sick people in Mozambique and elsewhere.
Her energy extinguished itself last year, in April 2013, due to health problems not related to
AIDS. But her voice and her example continue to speak to and to encourage others. The inauguration of the center that will bear her name occurred in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Health of Mozambique as well as of many of the patients being cared for under the Program.
Her commitment continues thanks to the efforts of many other activists who are able to reach out to the social fabric of their neighborhoods or their villages, and of nearby neighborhoods and villages, and to the public opinion of the whole country. Many other women like her continue to be protagonists in the liberation from the disease, tools for the formation of consciences, and precious assets for the country they live in.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

One year after his beatification: the works of don Pino Puglisi against the mafia

On March 21st, in the conference hall of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, Christians of various denominations, presbyters and others, met for a day of study focused on the “human and existential peripheries”, intending to analyze them “in the light of the Gospel”, keeping in mind the vision and the commitment of many witnesses.
In that context, a priest of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Don Angelo Romano, rector of the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Tiber island - where the memories and the relics of the martyrs of the twentieth and twenty first centuries are preserved - described the works of don Giuseppe (Pino) Puglisi, killed in Palermo by the mafia in September 1993.
Beatified at the end of May 2013, don Pino Puglisi is the first martyr of the mafia His character and his story are destined to inspire future pastoral action in many peripheries that live the
nightmare of mafia presence and frequent violence, as well the concept of canonized sanctity.
Today, a little more than one year after the beatification of Puglisi, we publish a few passages of that presentation:
“Why did the mafia decide to kill don Puglisi? Who was he?
“Don Puglisi was born in Palermo in 1937, in the same Brancaccio neighborhood in which he would be killed 56 years later. He was a child of the periphery of a city wounded by war. […] At a very young age he decided to become a priest, first in a shantytown of Palermo called ‘Scaricatore’, then in Godrano, another periphery, a little village near Palermo, a world populated by poor people tied to small parcels of land, by immigrants, by people without any education, marked by quarrels among families that escalate into violence, the same cultural subsoil of the mafia.
“[…] After eight years of work he was called back to Palermo, as a teacher of religion in a prestigious high school and , starting in 1990, as the parish priest of San Gaetano al Brancaccio, his old neighborhood. It was an extremely poor parish. The small church was unsafe and its bells could not be used. There were no rooms for meetings. Brancaccio was and still is a poor neighborhood, with many unemployed people and many children that do not go to school. It was one of the areas of Palermo most oppressed by the mafia’s presence.
“The mafia is not only a criminal organization. It has copied the spirit of the secret societies of the 1800s, building in parallel its own ideology and strategy for action. The mafia seeks approval by presenting itself as an institution that is alternative to the state, capable of resolving disputes, providing social services, guaranteeing security. In Puglisi’s time, Cosa Nostra’s control over Brancaccio was absolute, like a true clandestine sovereign. In fact, in Brancaccio the symbols of the state were absent: there was no junior high school, medical establishments, municipal offices, or police station. Brancaccio was destined to remain a place without security and devoid of rights or institutions.
“[…] The first victims of this ‘mafia order’ were the children. Don Pino decided to take care of them first: they were violent, intolerant of any type of rule, ready to take advantage of the weaker ones, unwilling to recognize even their most obvious offences, inspired by the cult of deviousness and duplicity. These children were the nursery which the mafia would draw on to organize its ranks. Don Puglisi decided to open for these children the ‘Padre Nostro’ Center, with some sisters who would provide them with a different education.
“Puglisi was a Christian educator with great spiritual and cultural resources. To those would observed that even patience must have a limit he would reply: ‘If it is patience it has no limit.’
[…] His action was profoundly Christian. He would say: ‘I am not a sociologist, I am only a man that is working for the kingdom of God’.
“[…] Puglisi knew well the mafia mentality, and had understood that in order to survive the mafia needed to hide, to camouflage itself. A writing to which even Puglisi made a contribution, states: ‘The mafia is in its own way a culture, an ethic, a way of thinking, a standard of judgment, […] a language, a custom. And, notwithstanding all the camouflage, it is a culture that is anti-evangelical and anti-Christian, and, under many aspects, even satanic. It falsifies terms that indicate positive values such as family, friendship, solidarity, honor, dignity; it distorts them and loads them with meanings that are diametrically opposite to the Christian ones. The goals are to dominate through abuse, create complicity in evil, the imposition of oneself, dependency, enslavement and contempt for the other, prestige based on power and wealth sought by any means’.
“Puglisi, with his work made of catechizing, preaching and the education of minors, diminished the mafia’s strength joining the effort of the Church as a whole. An effort that reached its peak with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sicily in May 1993. The Pope came to Sicily following several mafia murders, he met with the families of many victims, decided to make some very clear statements at Agrigento, inviting the Mafiosi to convert, and reminding them that God’s judgment day on their actions would come.
“Cosa Nostra’s response was not long in coming. On July 27 1993 three bombs explode during the night, one in Milan and two in Rome, one near the cathedral of Saint John in Lateran and the other near the church of Saint George in Velabro. Cosa Nostra shows its terrorist face and views the Church with increasing hostility. Less than two months after the bombing at the Laterano, don Puglisi is murdered. His words represented a hindrance. He preached the Gospel and from his pulpit he spoke to the mafiosi: ‘Come, let’s talk. Those who use violence are not men. We ask those who oppose us to reacquire their humanity’. Puglisi had shaken the consciences of those who lived under the oppression or the spell of Cosa Nostra. According to a direct witness, the head of the mafia of those days, Bagarella, decided to kill him because ‘He took those children, trying to tell them :’do not join the Mafiosi’, and anyway operated to take people away from the mafia’s reach’.
That meek, unarmed man had scared the head of the mafia. […] Today his neighborhood has changed. People reacted to his assassination: he was too well known as a saint priest, as a model […] Many children of Brancaccio look up to him as an example. As with many martyrs, his story seems to be one of defeat while in reality it marks a victory at a deeper level”.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Africa - The prayer for peace, faithful memory of many difficult situations, “burning aspiration” of innumerable men and women

On Sunday, May 25th, Pope Francis, a pilgrim in the land where the Prince of Peace was born and raised, emphasized the need for and importance of every effort and every prayer for peace. “Building peace is difficult”, he said, “but living without peace is a torment. Men and women of the whole world ask us to bring forth to God their burning aspiration for peace”. He went on to say: “We are all under an obligation to become tools and builders of peace, first of all through prayer”.
The communities of Sant’Egidio in the world are determined to faithfully carry forth such a commitment. A custom has developed in our communities to meet at least once a month to ask God for that peace which only He can fully grant, to remember one by one the names of the states and regions of the world being visited and tormented by the demon of violence and war.
Over the past few days two African communities have experienced the meeting for peace in a more lively fashion and with more participants than usual, as shown in the reports and the
pictures published on the www.santegidio.org website.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the Kivu region that are suffering deeply due to the actions of the armed militias, and from Bukavu, an invocation has risen to put an end to all violence, a call for peace in every corner of the world. The attention granted to the event by the local media was significant as well, and reflected the growing demand for peace that is coming from Africa. A few thousand kilometers northwest of that region, another beautiful and deeply felt prayer was celebrated in Bamako, calling for an end to the armed clashes that still bring bloodshed to
northern Mali, so that we may find and proceed on the road to dialogue and reconciliation among all parties in the dispute.
The Community’s website records the story of P., an elderly woman from Mali, “who arrived after hours of walk from a very distant neighborhood, oblivious to her tiredness, focused on joining in the prayer. The woman was moved when she heard how many countries in the world still are without peace. ‘I will pray every day for my country, Mali, but also for the other ones I heard mentioned today’”.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

San Salvador, El Salvador - The friendship with the homeless, a sure thing in a precarious life without certainties

This past February 19th, in the parish of San José de la Montaña, the Sant’Egidio community of San Salvador celebrated the 46th anniversary since the foundation of the mother Community in Rome. The poor whom the movement knows well and helps in town were also present, and in particular those who are forced to live in the street. During the course of the liturgy one of them was remembered, the recently departed Erik. 
Erik lived near the central market of San Salvador. Every Wednesday he waited for his friends from the Community for what had become the central appointment of his week, a sure thing in
an otherwise precarious life without certainties.
He was completely transformed when he spoke with them. He used to be a truck driver who had lost his job due to health problems and who had sought refuge in alcohol. He appreciated the opportunity for a more free and higher-level conversation, he showed an interest in the life of the people who went to see him and empathized with them through their difficulties and their hopes.
On January 29, the last Wednesday of his life, Erik was already sick but had wanted to remain for a long time with Carlos, one of the members of the Community who had known him the longest and reminisce about their long friendship, in a way bid him farewell and promise him his prayers. 
Erik’s friendship was something precious for the Community of San Salvador. The memory of Erik is tied to that of many other brothers and friends of Saint Egidio in that country, such as William Quijano and others, and becomes a commitment to live more faithfully our closeness to the many existential peripheries of this world of ours.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Ouellé, Ivory Coast - A campaign of proximity, youth and elderly, against abandonment and prejudice

It has just been over a few days campaign of "courtesy" organized in Ivory Coast by the local Community of Sant'Egidio, engaged in the effort to put in the midst of public attention the life of the Ivorian elderly, their needs, their desire for a stronger deal between generations.
In traditional African society eldelry were influential and respected, but now, in a changed social and economic environment, in the cultural climate of a globalization without a soul, they are less and less regarded, if not abandoned, away from the flow of life. Moreover, they are victim of
prejudice and superstition, like if they would continue to live "sucking" other's life,  that of infants who live a few days, and so on (prejudice and superstition which may have very serious consequences, not only loneliness and marginalization, as well as lynchings).
The campaign, which was centered in the town of Ouelle, was a succession of information meetings in schools, awareness-raising initiatives in the town squares, and, finally, a big party for the "celebration des personnes agés". Hoping that a new reconciliation between youth and elderly will arise, as well it will be possible to replicate everything in other African cities and countries.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Rome, Italy - Solidarity for persecuted Christians, candles around the Coliseum

On Thursday May 15th a candlelight vigil organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Jewish community of Rome will show the support of the Italian capital city to all those who are discriminated or persecuted because of their faith in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia.
At 19.45 the Coliseum lights will be turned off, while the people gathered by Sant'Egidio and the Jewish community, with the support of the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, will express
solidarity with Christians who are risking their lives in practicing their own religion. In that same moment torches and candles will be raised in memory of the victims. 
The whole city has been invited to participate in order to say ‘No’ to all forms of fanaticism and extremism, to put a stop to any kind of persecution and remember the souls of those who have been the victims of anti-Christian hatred. The persecuted Christians are not alone.
From Africa to the Middle East, to Asia appeals for peaceful coexistence are contradicted by incidents where violence erupts. The recent kidnapping in Nigeria of a large number of schoolgirls by Boko Haram terrorists is another example of the horrible forms of violence and persecution that affect many corners of the world. The people around the Coliseum will add their voice to the many appeals for the liberation of those girls and their restoration to a normal condition of life. 
The persecution against Christians, too often overlooked or hidden by a veil of indifference, should prompt intervention solidarity of all men and women of good will, of every religious denomination. The condemnation of violence and religious hatred, real blasphemy of God's name, must be unanimous, the hands of persecutors must be stopped, the chain of crimes, the result of intolerance, must be broken.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Dzoole, Malawi - The service to the elderly in a letter of the I DREAM movement in the country

The DREAM website, dream.santegidio.org, published some days ago a letter from the women and the men involved in the movement I DREAM in Malawi, actually in Dzoole. 
DREAM is a program fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, thought and run by the Community of Sant’Egidio in order to give the same possibilities of diagnosis and treatment of the Western World also to thousands of patients in some African countries, i. e. Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Republic of Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Camerun, Angola, Nigeria and Guinea Bissau. That’s why we publish some parts of the letter also in this blog, dedicated to the activities of the Sant’Egidio communities in the world. The letter is also an example of the service provided by several Sant’Egidio families to the elderly, in villages, as well in institutions.

“With a group of friends from Lilongwe we decided to visit the village of  Dzoole to help to start a service of assistance to the elderly. From their stories and after few visits, we realized that in that village there were many elderly who were alone and have no one to help and take care of them. 
We were very touched by the meeting with Nathala, a woman who is over 90 years old and lives alone in a hut. In her long life Nathala had 8 children but only 4 of them are still alive. Despite her age, she remembers many things and she loves to talk and tell about the old stories of Malawi.

Nathala was very surprised by our visit and she told us that since she was born, never before had strangers came over to help her in the practical things of everyday life.  It may happen that the members of the family will come to visit and offer support but it had never happened to receive support from someone who is not a relative.
When we introduced ourselves she thought we were supporters of a political party since, especially in these days with the undergoing election campaign (note: the presidential elections took place in Malawi on March 20th) politicians and party supporters visit the villages to meet the people and gather support, sometimes bringing a gift, a blanket or a chicken, to demonstrate that the specific politician is close to the people. 
We told her who we were: members of the great family of the Community of Sant'Egidio. We talked about how some years ago we met the Community, when many of us were very sick and how we decided to join the Community forming the movement I DREAM, to try to give back to others at least some of the good and love that we have received for free. We introduced each other, one by one, by name, and told her where we came from because, there were not only the friends of Dzoole but that day we were so many, even from other areas.
Nathala's house was very dirty: she does not have the strength to keep it clean and, being alone, struggles even to take care of her personal hygiene.
We spent a lot of time listening to her stories and the description of her daily difficulties, such as the effort to go in search of a bit of wood for the fire to boil water or to cook something to eat.
Later some of our friends helped her wash while another group cleaned the house that was not in good conditions, despite the fact that some of her relatives live close by, but, as Nathala told us, no one loses time with her.
We asked her what did she want us to bring next time we came to visit but she replied: "I can not ask for anything. To people who have the heart to donate there is no need to ask for anything. If I asked for something, it would be as if I wanted to impose and control".
She was very thankful for our visit and she told us that the fact that we took the first step to look out for her and came into her house makes us like family and that now she will consider us as if we were her children and grandchildren. She thanked us and told us that she hopes to see us soon.
When we parted, her eyes filled with tears and, very touched, she told us that she will remember this visit as an important event in her life, hoping to see us again soon. And we also hope to return very soon to visit her”.