Friday 27 February 2015

Liège, Belgium - A new soup kitchen for the poor “Kamiano”

Last week, on the occasion of the celebration of the 47th anniversary of Sant’Egidio, the community of Lièges inaugurated a new “Kamiano” home of solidarity with the poor, the second such home in Belgium. It includes a soup kitchen and rooms for shower services. This home will become a space of friendship, comfort and dignity for dozens of people without a home, for the elderly who live alone and the refugees that live in the Walloon city. 
The home bears the same name as the other, larger one, established several years ago in Antwerp. The name refers to the way the inhabitants of Molokai, one of Hawaii’s islands, would pronounce the name of the Belgian missionary Damian de Veuster, a friend and an apostle of the lepers of the Pacific: just like in those days, a new world can be born out of friendship with the people living at the geographic and existential margins of society. 

Saturday 21 February 2015

Abidjan, Ivory Coast - Sant’Egidio denounces the ritual killings of children and the inhuman beliefs and attitudes that make them possible

The Community of Sant’Egidio has long been outraged and worried about the murders of children that occur in different rural and non-rural regions in Sub-Saharan Africa. These are true ritual murders, human sacrifices offered to the idols of ambition and money in the superstitious belief that the blood, the limbs or the organs of these innocent ones can guarantee success, wealth and power.
These are the sad stories coming out of Angola, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania (where the victims are albino), Togo and Uganda. This is what happened in the Ivory Coast which experienced a tragic growth in the numbers of these kinds of crimes. 

The Community of Sant’Egidio in Abidjan has stated its firm condemnation of these dreadful actions and has launched an appeal during a press conference organized for that purpose. The appeal is aimed at overcoming a culture and an attitude that systematically devalues the life of minors, and in which children are exploited by ruthless adults.
The Community’s website reports the statements by the head of Sant’Egidio in the Ivory Coast, Georges Adon, and the coordinator of the Schools of Peace, Ange Saye’ Zirihi: “First of all we need to stop the hand of those who take away the lives of some many innocent victims. But to ensure that acts such as these are not repeated we also need to change the culture with regards to childhood”, we need to fight against “inhuman beliefs behind which are hidden a thirst for wealth and power.”
In the course of the press conference the valuable role of the Schools of Peace was also recognized. These centers of school support, aimed at educating towards coexistence and peace, are managed by Sant’Egidio. They exist in various locations in Abidjan and in other cities of the Ivory Coast. Among other things, in these after school settings, the legal registration of the participants protects them from the administrative “invisibility” that can most easily be exploited to entrap these children for criminal purposes. 

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo - Work goes on in view of the opening of a shelter home for the elderly accused of witchcraft

On the occasion of the week of prayer dedicated to Christian unity, the Community of Sant’Egidio of Uvira, in South Kivu, on the border with Burundi, organized a celebration that saw the participation of the bishop, Mons. Sebastien Muyengo, and representatives of the Orthodox Church of the Patriarchy of Alexandria, of the Anglican Communion and of the Lutheran, Methodist and Pentecostal Churches.
On the same occasion, Mons. Muyengo decided to visit the shelter home that Sant’Egidio is renovating downtown to house elderly people who, accused of witchcraft, were able to escape lynching thanks to our intervention. 

The accusations of witchcraft against the elderly are a widespread and very severe problem in all of central-eastern Africa and all the communities of Sant’Egidio are engaged in the building of a different mentality, in order to save the lives of so many innocent victims and free people from a degrading and violent superstition.
We remind ourselves that it was at Uvira that Sant’Egidio was painfully shocked by what happened to Sophie Mulondala, an 80-year-old woman, accused of having caused the death of her niece through magical practices. The people of her neighborhood lynched her together with her son who had tried, unsuccessfully, to protect her in (March 2011). The Community has organized city-wide assemblies, to inform and sensitize, in order to protect those who are victims of such senseless accusations and to build a different culture. It also increased the visits to the homes of the very old. Some of the older people, until recently treated as witches or sorcerers, have seen the attitude of their neighbors change once the young members of the community of Uvira began visiting them.     

Saturday 14 February 2015

Malawi - Youth for Peace celebrate the anniversary of the Community of Sant’Egidio with events in support of the elderly

On the 47th anniversary of the Community of Sant’Egidio two important events were held in Lilongwe and Blantyre involving about 1500 high school students.
The events, held under the motto “Sing, get involved… and help the elderly”, comprised musical performances , theater shows and testimonies about the friendship that binds the
Youth for Peace and the elderly. The high school students of the two most important Malawian cities engaged in an art contest that focused on the attention to and friendship with the elderly. At the end, after the award ceremony, a minute of silence was observed to commemorate the victims of the floods that have devastated the country over the past weeks and funds were collected to help older people who had lost their home as a result of the floods. 
The whole day was therefore a gathering marked by sensitivity and hope. Notwithstanding the ongoing hardships, the young and the very young wanted to send a message of openness to tomorrow, a tomorrow filled with participative involvement and solidarity among different generations. The building of that kind of tomorrow is in the hands of all, including the students.
At the beginning of the Blantyre event, Keegan Mwanguku, the national head of the Youth for Peace, pointed out that even “Andrea Riccardi was 18 years old when he began setting out for the streets of Rome to involve other young people to help children and the elderly: this is what we, young Malawians, want to imitate and what inspires us”. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Nigeria - Marco Impagliazzo visits the Nigerian communities

The president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, has recently visited the communities who live and work in Nigeria, as well as the DREAM center managed by the Saint Vincent De’ Paoli Congregation in Abuja. 

The visit was inspired by the desire to be even closer to brothers and sisters who, like millions of other Nigerians, live in fear and insecurity because of the terrorist activity carried out by the fundamentalist movement Boko Haram. 
The whole world was overwhelmed with horror following the attacks in Paris and the other tragic episodes which are at the center of the international media’s attention. On the other hand there was less press coverage of the terror that afflicts several African countries, among them Nigeria, and the participation to the suffering borne by these populations is weaker. 
This should not be the case according to Sant’Egidio. The presence of Marco Impagliazzo at the side of the Nigerian communities was, and is, a statement of how, if a limb of the body suffers, all the limbs suffer with it, and that the whole Community prays and hopes for peace
and the full restoration of interreligious coexistence.
The response of the Schools of Peace of the Community in Nigeria and elsewhere was particularly meaningful. The Schools of Peace are truly places dedicated to the education to coexistence as well as to the accompaniment of younger generations to peace. They are the way to defeat the terror and the war not with weapons but with the practice of respect and friendship, the expansion of one’s horizons and the building of a shared conscience and future. Children and young people of all religious persuasions study and walk together, week after week, attesting to the fact that peace is possible, that peace is the future.
In the course of his visit, Impagliazzo listened to the representatives of the Community in Nigeria describe the bloodshed and the spreading of a culture of contempt and hatred. He was also able to experience first hand the courage and the confidence of young people who refuse to give in to resignation and pessimism and who intend to continue on the path of the “three Ps” - prayer, poor and peace - set forth by Pope Francis in his visit to Sant’Egidio this past June 15.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Malawi - After the floods that devastated the south of the country, Sant’Egidio mobilizes to provide assistance

The death toll of the floods that have recently ravaged the south of Malawi is rising. In most of the districts that are run through by the River Shire, water has covered very broad tracts of land, washing away the poor homes of about 200,000 people, as well as bridges, schools and health centers. In the flooded areas it is extremely difficult to plan for a rapid return to farming and livestock breeding, and the specter of famine looms over the country. One should not forget that agriculture is the driving sector of the entire economy. It accounts for 30% of the gross national product and employs 85% of the population. The risk of famine is compounded by the danger of diseases due to the many carcasses of animals in the flooded areas and the ensuing poisoning of the water sources. The Malawi government has turned to the international community for help (the donors had frozen their contributions in response to the serious corruption episodes of the past months) asking that funds be raised to allow the reconstruction and plan for the recovery. The Pope himself has issued the same appeal. 

The Community of Sant’Egidio too has decided to address Malawi’s needs and has initiated a fundraiser. Those who lost their homes need shelter; those who lost their crops need seeds and fertilizer in the near future. In addition, the extreme need for food needs to be confronted, as well as the scarcity of medicines and of products for the preservation of public hygiene.
 In the Community’s website,, a letter by the new parish priest of Saint Vincent de’ Paoli in Blantyre, father Ernest Kafunsa, of the Priestly Fraternity of Sant’Egidio, describes the dramatic conditions of the country and expresses gratitude for the Community’s mobilization: “A few days ago I visited several villages in the south of Malawi, the region that was hit the hardest by the flood. Many people live in camps for displaced people, they look like refugees in their own land: to save themselves from the water people had sought refuge on top of hills and trees.” Conditions are severe in town as well: “Blantyre, the main city, is without power or water: for a week now it has been necessary to collect rain water to supply drinking water, and at any time a cholera epidemic may break out”.