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 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’”.