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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year 2015

Christmas doesn't end on December 25th; in fact we're still celebrating!
The children of Orphan Center “Arc en Ciel” of Bozoum they too celebrated Christmas, but they went on and for them the Wise Men are already arrived
During this Christmas time I continue to meet friends, parishes and communities. Before Christmas I was in the area of Como and Milan. I met first the Association "Friends for the Central African Republic". Then I did visit the parish of Cassina Amata, where I could meet quite a number of people available to take care of the needy.
Tuesday is traditionally market day in Cuneo, and I had the joy of meeting Colonel Lanteri, who last August had welcomed me and treated in the field hospital of the French army in Bangui. He returned to France, and during these days he came to Cuneo with his family. With him and his family we toured the city. Saturday night I celebrated the Eucharist in the parish of San Lorenzo in Peveragno, a small community but very thoughtful and caring.
And now we too are ending Year 2014. Which can be our wishes? A lot:  health, work, quiet times, peace.
Peace to the Central African Republic. Peace to the entire world. And In all of us the so much needed inner peace.
But the most important wish: being able of allowing God to enlighten us, our God who madly loves us. Saint Augustine says: “Which greater grace from God could shine upon us? Having an only Son, God made Him son of man, and vice versa He made the son of man, son of God. Search for the credit, the reason, the righteousness of this, and see if you find anything other than a gift of love”.

Happy New Year to all!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014
Merry Christmas!
Wishing “Merry Christmas” looks like something taken for granted.  Actually isn’t so obvious.
In Central Africa, 2013 Christmas it was more weird than usual:  Midnight Mass at 4 p.m. and on December 25 morning it was raining, not real rain, grenades instead. The rain of war lasted from 5.30 until 8.00 ending just in time to celebrate the Solemn Mass at 8.30.  Small celebration, very few children balloon, children with the courage to dance that evening and singing: "Arrêtez de tuer, arrêtez de massacrer: nous voulons la Paix et pas la guerre..." (“Stop killing, stop the massacre, we want peace, not war ... ").
This year's Christmas in Bozoum will be a bit better, and we’ll give thanks to our God for everything!
Here in Italy and in Europe, it seems to me that we have lost the inner ability to be surprised, to wonder, to say a true “thanks”  and to celebrate.

And yet ... Christmas isn’t a joke: it is God who makes Himself man.  And please do not say that this is little! It is simply everything!

And the Child that we celebrate on Christmas is that concrete gesture with which God tells me, tells you: I LOVE YOU so much!  And He does it in the simplest form that could it be.
Merry Christmas!
I wish you Christmas as a moment of serenity and joy, a moment of love and surprise, for that Child who is God, and for “that child” we still are.
Merry Christmas!

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.