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”.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Adjumani, Uganda - A school for the future of South Sudan refugees

The bloody clashes in South Sudan are pushing refugee groups to flee south, towards Uganda. Around 200 people a day cross the border and settle in the camps that are being prepared in the northern regions of that country.
In Adjumani, one of those border provinces, the local community of Sant'Egidio is working in order to answer to the suffering of the southern Sudanese populations, and in particular the need for education of children. Also the mother community of Rome and has been involved in the same effort.
The refugees from South Sudan in the region of Adjumani are more than 80,000, mostly Dinka, divided into 15 camps. The largest and most populated ones are Nyumanzi 1 and 2.
Overcrowding creates problems of all kinds, in addition to the suffering of those who lost everything in a few weeks.
One thing that has been lost is school. That's why Sant'Egidio has chosen to start from this issue, helping with education the children refugees of Nyumanzi (6,000 of the 20,000 people in the camp). The school is a premise of hope and future, an investment in younger generations, a bet on the fact that the war will not be the last word in the history of the region.
All the communities of Sant’Egidio in the world have supported and continue to support, in collaboration with the Diocese of Arua, a primary school that is supposed to be organized in multiple classes, under large tents. An initiative that will also serve to motivate and to recover valuable skills, those of teachers, refugees themselves, no longer condemned to live waiting for international aid, but put in a position to work again for the future of their people.
For those wishing to read the report of the visit of the envoys of Sant'Egidio in Nyumanzi, please visit www.santegidio.org.