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,
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.