Thursday 28 May 2015

Maroua, Cameroun - The young, the elderly and the softness of friendship

Inspired by the perspective of closeness and reciprocal support between the young and the elderly which is one of the themes on which Pope Francis’ preaching insists the most, the communities of Sant’Egidio in Africa and elsewhere endeavor to bring liveliness and joy to the relationship among different generations, between the age of memory and the age of possibilities. 
All this manifests itself in a variety of ways: in a friendly visit, in fighting against any superstitious stigma or credence with regards to the elderly, and in providing concrete, active, attentive and loyal support. 
That is what happened for example in Maroua, in the Northernmost part of Cameroun, which is one of the regions threatened by the clashes ignited by Boko Haram, but also one of the poorest regions in the country. There are many elderly who live in conditions of extreme poverty, in part because they share in the scarcity of resources that affects everyone, in part because they find themselves without relatives, abandoned as they are in their huts deprived of the minimum necessary to survive. 

The members of Sant’Egidio in Cameroun, with their limited means, have decided to support the most severely exposed among the elderly by welcoming them in an extended family which never fails to provide them with its presence and its care. Hence the decision to collect funds to buy and donate mattresses, beginning with the village of Ouzzang, just outside Maroua. It was a simple gesture, a sign that there is someone you can count on in all of life’s occasions, a way to remind ourselves that friendship dulls the harshness of life, making it softer and easier. 

Monday 18 May 2015

Genoa, Italy - Synergies to defeat poverty

Often we are tempted to think that we cannot do much to confront and defeat poverty. At the national level you either are a developing country or an advanced country. True “but there is the economic crisis …”. At the international level the weight of global dynamics crushes us and makes us feel powerless. So?
So we need to trust in the little steps, in the strength of loyalty, in imaginative and intelligent strategies, in the synergies between experiences and possibilities. That is what the
Community of Sant’Egidio of Genoa and the Costa Crociere Foundation decided to do in designing and carrying out a project involving social assistance and responsibility: “A roof for those who don’t have it”. Under this project, which started in the fall of 2014, the restructuring of a few apartments located in Genoa’s historical downtown area has allowed a dozen homeless people as well as a family who had lost its home to start over with a roof over their head.
A small drop in an ocean which can, however, mean a lot, especially for those directly involved. But also for those who might replicate this example elsewhere in the future. Shouldn’t we give this some thought? 

Thursday 14 May 2015

Aleppo (Syria) - The Community of Sant’Egidio: Stop the “hell” of war. Now more than ever #savealeppo …

Last week the Community of Sant’Egidio organized an important conference in Bari with the participation of very authoritative members of the Christian Churches of the Near East and
the attendance of political leaders and diplomats. This was one way to put back at the center of the attention of the world the tragic situation afflicting Syria which has been ravaged for four years by a civil war that has caused tens of thousands of victims and hundreds of thousands of refugees. It was also the occasion to advocate the creation of safe havens, secure areas for Christian and other minorities who live in that region. The point is to stop the exodus by “ensuring safe conditions for the Christians who decide to stay and thus must be protected”, but also by helping countries with Muslim majorities to address and resolve the problem of extremism because everyone benefits from pluralism and tolerance.
This week Sant’Egidio issues again and with even greater strength the appeal “Save Aleppo”, which its founder, Andrea Riccardi, has been promoting for several weeks now. Aleppo and the surrounding area could be one of these safe havens, not a ghetto, but a place of refuge and protection, a prophetic sign of the coexistence that was, and can be once more, the modus vivendi in an area that plays such a significant role for the stability of the world.
We hope that such insistence may elicit a favorable response and be welcome among many political decision-makers and many international organizations. Italian and international
media has been reporting with increasing frequency that the conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate, reaching levels of extreme tragedy. The Italian newspaper “Avvenire” has recently published an editorial titled “The Catacombs of Aleppo”, dedicated to the situation in that very ancient Syrian city, whose inhabitants are forced to live underground because of the bombings that are completing its destruction. The new report by Amnesty International also insists on the unbearable suffering being inflicted upon the population of Aleppo. “I have seen headless children and body parts everywhere. It was exactly how I had imagined hell would be” recounted a witness who lives in the al-Fardus neighborhood. Another one spoke of “horror in its purest state”. Today more than ever it is time to say #savealeppo ….

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Germany - The Youth for Peace and the shipwrecked in the Mediterranean: against indifference, for a more human and solidary culture

In front of the tragedy that has been unfolding for years in the Mediterranean, with the death of thousands of migrants and men, women and children seeking asylum, the Community of Sant’Egidio works to build in various European countries a culture of mercy and acceptance, and to offer an outstretched hand, some help and comfort to those who manage to reach land. 

Among the many initiatives of solidarity, prayer and discussion which the European communities have organized over the past weeks, in particular after the death of about 900 migrants in the Channel of Sicily, we note the invitation issued by Sant’Egidio’s Youth for Peace in Germany. The invitation is addressed to the students of various high schools to share with them a gesture of
humanity and acceptance, to say “No” to a culture of indifference and rejection, and “Yes” to a different culture, of responsibility and the sacredness of life.
In various schools and squares in Berlin, Würzburg, Mönchengladbach, Munich, etc. the young high school students from Sant’Egidio and elsewhere left flowers to remember the victims of the voyages of hope, reading aloud the stories of some of the refugees, discovering together that - as Pope Francis recently reminded us - they “are men and women like us, people in search of happiness”.