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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Live from Madrid: Bozoum

Live from Madrid: Bozoum
During these past days in Madrid, Spain, has echoed many times the name of the capital city of the Republic of Central Africa: Bozoum. Yes: Bozoum with its colors, its sufferings but also with its smiles.
The Spanish Bar Association (Consejo General de la Abogacía Española) on the anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights uses to celebrate each year a Convention ending with an award to those, people or Institutions, who work and devote themselves on defense of Human Rights. This year, among the winners, there was also the Central Africa, with Monsignor Juan Jose Aguirre (Bishop of Bangassou) and me. Very interesting the reason for the award:
"Mediator of peace, a man of welcome, help and defense, at the risk of his own life, of Christians and Muslims in Central Africa, and active blogger in defense of Human Rights"
On Tuesday I had left Turin, and leaving Paris behind, I reached Madrid a very beautiful city. On Wednesday morning I have a meeting with the team in charge for the ceremony, facing some interviews. Early afternoon, around 1.00 pm, I meet my sister and my nice Marisa Luisella, just arrived from Italy. They will be with me during these special days.
In the evening I go to say hello to Fr. Juan Montero, the translator for the Spanish language blog.
Thursday is the great day. Yet more interviews. Then at 6.30 pm the ceremony begins with words of greetings from the Minister of Justice. There are 5 winners: the journalist Henrique Cyberman, which took part at the organization of the special meeting in the Vatican City between Pope Francis, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas; the "Ciudad de Escuela de los Muchachos" and Inigo de Ortz Mendibil, 2 Institutions working with and for children and kids at risk; I and Monsignor Aguirre brother from Central Africa.
Each one of the awarded says something ... and so I made this speech:

Good evening everyone! I feel very excited. I apologize if my pronunciation of your language isn’t perfect. It’s a great honor to be here with you this evening, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind invitation. As a Carmelite, son of St. Teresa of Avila, it’s one more reason of being proud. Allow me to say my thanks to you. This award allows highlighting a forgotten crisis of a forgotten Country, the Central African Republic. In two year time we sadly can count thousands of victims. Because of the same crisis more than a million people (a quarter of the population) had to flee away from their home seeking refuge elsewhere. When they are lucky, shelter can be found at the Catholic Missions, or they have to leave the Country. On December 2013, after more than eight months, the Seleka rebels, which most of them, Arabic  speaking, are from Chad and Sudan, have fulfilled finally they rules of terror. For us were months of tortures, theft, looting, killings, rapes and destruction. At a certain point part of the population ( the antibalaka ) arms itself (the antibalaka) and begin fighting the Seleka, but unfortunately they fight also against our Muslim people which in part are in favor of Seleka. Thousands of people fled, some into the forest, about 4-6 thousand of them to the Catholic Mission. Receiving them, feeding them, caring for them, it was ensuring safety and keeping hope alive. This has been my and our work for over a month and a half.
Meanwhile, along with men and women of good will, we put together a Mediation Committee in order to find a peaceful alternative to war. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims all united for the same goal. We went to discuss with Seleka, the antibalaka, Muslims, non-Muslims. This patient and courageous work allowed to limit the number of wounded and dead people, and led finally to the departure of Seleka rebels.
It seems to me simply right if I share the Award with the following people: Barthélémy Mondele, Jonas Nodjitouloum, Thierry Kanghal, the Pastor Samuel Laoue, Monique, Joseph and five Muslims, and myself. Once more: thanks for this award.
Allow me to say: this isn’t the only award that I did receive. A good number more have been given to me during these two years of war. These Awards I hold very dearly.
The first: a slap I received from Goni, a Seleka rebel, mad at me simply because I did complain with them of the torture and arbitrary arrests against our people. The second award: the broken windows of my car, cracked by the crowd of Muslims who wanted to prevent the departure of the Seleka rebels. The third award: on January 13, I drove back to the Mission, after obtaining the departure of the Seleka rebels accompanied by throwing of stones and threatened with weapons by Muslims. Once at the Mission people shouted for joy, because they feared that I had been killed. And threw their cloaks under my car wheels, which to me it seemed like Palm Sunday!  The fourth award: the eyes of a young Muslim and of  "10/15", the nickname of a Seleka, looking at me. Both of them prevented the Muslim crowd to kill or hurt me. A fifth prize: the thousands smiles of thousands children during the month and a half when they had taken refuge at the Mission. Much of my work, in addition to the organization, it was keeping myself busy in giving smiles to each one of them, in order to make them feel comfortable with us. I can assure you: I received back much more from them than I had given. The sixth award: more than 15,000 children, both last year and this year, they could go to school! In a Country at war, keeping open schools it’s a severe challenge and a positive answer to the violence! Going to school means to sow the future, means distract children from violence, means giving hope to their parents and a reason to enjoy peace.  The seventh award: a phone call by Muslim friends from Chad or Cameroon asking about my health and life. The eighth award: the offertory I organized a month ago among my parishioners in Bozoum. I was asked to collect something for approximately 200 Muslims who remained in Bozoum. The most of them were women and children. At my parish we have a monthly collection for the needy. Usually we collect food and money, about 15-20 Euros. That Sunday, my Christians moved me: they brought lots of food and almost 70 Euros. My dear, I have to say how lucky I’m! I give thanks to God each and every day for the gift of being able to live and work in Central Africa.
And now I thank you for your kindness, for your sensitivity, for your everyday work.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cuneo (Italy)

Cuneo (Italy)
Just after few days in the hospital, on Monday, December 1 (by the way on this day we celebrate the Central African Republic) I leave the Hospital and I go for a visit to my relatives reaching them in the afternoon. I had to attend first an initiative on Peace in the Hall of Honor of the Municipality of Cuneo, where I spoke briefly about Bozoum, place of war and peace...
On Wednesday I met with about forty Sisters of St. Joseph. As part of a training initiative on the global vision of the world, they invited me to speak of Central Africa. I talk for over an hour and a half, and it was nice to see these nuns so enthusiastic and attentive! On Friday evening a special happening by ARION (The historic pastry maker of Cuneo, where were created the famous "Cuneesi al Rhum", known even by Hemingway!). I then took part at a presentation of a book, “Handbook of Philosophy” just printed. I was the speaker simply because the Author, Giancarlo Cencio, wrote this book for the students of our High School in Bozoum. The evening has been organized by the Cultural Association “Salinzucca-The taste of Knowledge”.  
It was a wonderful evening. I had te opportunity to show a good number of pictures on Central Africa, Bozoum and on our working for peace. (You can see them here: 0)
A week of recovering, full of beautiful events, in a city, Cuneo, full of beautiful people!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

From Nairobi to Paris, Rome, Naples, Arenzano the Hospital.

From  Nairobi to  Paris,  Rome,  Naples,  Arenzano the Hospital.

On Saturday, November 22nd, I was still in Nairobi. In the afternoon I went to see Fr. Fogliacco who came with me to visit the Cottolengo, a wonderful example of Charity! A beautiful building which shelter children, aged from 3 months to 20 years, sick with AIDS or with severe disabilities. Beautiful children who don’t  think twice to jump in your harms or to run to the Missionary  just asking for  a candy.
Around 11:00 PM I boarded the plane for Paris where I arrived after 8 hours flight.  From Paris I took the last flight for Rome where we landed at 1:00 PM.
Leaving the luggage behind, I went to St. Peter’s Basilica with Fr. David. We could enjoy the Pope Francis celebration during which were declared Saints a group of Christian figures. Among them there was Father Chavara,  the Founder of the Indian Sisters CMC (the first Indian Congregation - 1866) and a Nun of the same Congregation.  This gave us the chance to see and greet many Indian Sisters of this blessed Congregation. Some of them work with us in Arenzano (Genoa) Italy, in Germany and Tanzania. In the evening we met with the Mother Superior of the same Congregation CMC sharing  words of gratitude for the great work they carry on in Central Africa.
On Monday I went to Naples to visit a very dear friend of mine who is dying of cancer. I’m deeply touched by his clearness and peace of mind, by his questioning of the true meaning of life and by the attention and love of the people close to him. I’m asking you for a prayer for him and all the people he loves.
Back to Rome I did meet the greatly respected journalist of TV2000 Mr. Maurizio Dischino and the next day I had the chance to say hello to Carlo, the cameramen who last June with Mr. Maurizio came to Bozoum. On Tuesday, after a goodbye to my friends of Italian Caritas and TV2000, I truly enjoyed the visit to the Vatican Museums. By the evening I was back to Genoa.
On Wednesday I left for Savona. Once there I wasn’t feeling too well.....the high fever was telling me by experience that malaria was back. I asked to be taken to Cuneo. At the First Aid Center while explaining to the Emergency Room Operators my health situation (just arrived from Africa and having high fever), some of the nurses did take few steps back (Ebola factor). Soon after they found out it was malaria. They are taking good care of me. As for this very moment I’m still in the Hospital. At present I feel well hoping to leave the Hospital this Monday coming.
Welcome to Italy!!!!
P.S. I forgot to tell you that last Wednesday Fr. Mathiew and 16 other hostages were released.  Fr. Mathieu, Polish, was kidnapped on October 12 in Baboua, in our diocese of Bouar .