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Monday, June 30, 2014

Soccer, kids and christenings

Soccer, kids and christenings

On Monday I set off for my journey home and on Tuesday I arrived in Bangui. While landing we hovered over the most disastrous areas of the capital with an awful view of hundreds of houses completely destroyed. As I'm a huge fan (NOT!) i got curious as there was a sign for the World Cup of Soccer just in the courtyard of the Carmel refugee camp. Amongst the 6000 fragile shelter of the tents somebody managed to place a satellite dish, a tv and an electrical generator...
On Wednesday, in Bangui still, I went downtown with 
Maurizio Dischino and Carlo Petruzziello, a journalist and cameraman ov TV2000, to meet with some people. At the school open by the Association CAR's friends there was Monica, an italian volunteer and some MAdagascar sisters who asked me to bless their Baby Jesus statue. There were about 200 kids there and I explained them the meaning of thta statue and we also prayed for all the kids and peace in CAR.
the Road from Bangui to Bozoum is always a true adventure. We came across 9 Antibalaka's bars, another 7 held by regular soldiers, a military convoy of 400 trucks coming down into the capital escorted by the military group...
once here in Bozoum we made a tour of the city's initiatives with 
Maurizio and Carlo of TV2000 (these days there are nice documentary on tv at 6.30 pm)
getting around the neighbourhoods i'm really impressed by the destruction we see. And today, Sunday the 29th of June there's a huge celebration for 115 christening, a dozen holy communion and a wedding, our church vibrates with prayers, songs, dances and colours!
In spite of it all!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On my trip through Europe


On my trip through Europe

I have been travelling since Sunday 15th of June.
On Sunday I left for Bangui, where I arrived in the evening. Monday morning I flew to Douala (Cameroon). In the evening my flight departed to Paris, and the next day at 12:30 I arrived in Oslo (Norway).
The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue organizes an annual global event, that gathers peace mediators from all around the world. Around 100 participants from all over the world try to find peaceful solutions for the various conflicts that afflict nations.
It is alarming to see how the world is heading towards destruction, but it is also beautiful to see how many marvelous people all over the world try to foster peaceful solutions, often without attracting attention to themselves.
We worked in groups and came together in thematic meetings. High-ranking personalities, such as Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others, also participated.
On Thursday the Central African Republic was on the agenda. I sat next to the president of the country, Catherine Samba-Panza, and we tried to explain the situation. I talked about my experiences in peace mediation at Bozoum.
On Friday the 20th I continued my journey and arrived in Geneva around midday. I met Floriana Polito (Caritas Internationalis), Albert Hengelaar (Evangelical World Alliance), Fabio (Community of Pope John XXIII), Beatrice (Cordaid) and the Bishop of Bossangoa/ Central African Republic.
In the afternoon in a big aula of the United nations, we talked about the Central African Republic. The audience was very attentive. The Apostolic Nuncio, the expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Ms. Keita Bocoum, and Mr. Slimane Cheikh, the permanent observer of the organization of the Islamic Conference, were also present
Please find below my address

Dear Sirs and Madams,
I take this opportunity yo thank each and every person who helped my being here, especially Caritas Internationalis, World Evangelical Alliance and Permanent Mission of the Holy See. I believe that when conflict arise, it's necessary to focus everyone's attention but to do all we can to stop the belligerent people. Failure to do so can lead to deep fractures which will spread and ruin the country, collapsing into violence, hatred and move across the borders to the nearby countries. This is especially true about CAR. I'm only a simple priest, and as one I feel deeply involved when I witness suffering.In the past years I had to negotiate many times with armed rebels and thugs....
In the past months i saw the cruel spiral of ethnic and communties forming. The mechanism forcing locals to flee, propagading terror has developed so rapidly that the international community didn't respond accordingly and arrived only too late.
Too late to help out defenceless people and to stop those with weapons. Unfortunately the internation acommunity arrived only to stablilize a situation imposed upon us by several rebel groups. Let me outline briefly what's going on in CAR: it's a country rich of human and natural resources, but one of the poorest in the world. Its civil and military forces fled once tension rises. its society's fabric has been lacerated by invasions and reactions, tearing apart muslims and christians. Until Seleka rebels came there weren't such serious issues.
Hundreds of people have been forced to leave their home, in fear of violence, plundering and weapons against them and cannot go back, so there's a huge negative impact on local economy of course,  worsening of plagues such AIDS and malaria, malnutrition, stopping of education, uprising of soldier-kids, rapes etcetera. This conflict in such remote corner of Africa took too long to get some attention from the International community.
Actually we could have predicted it, few saw and tried to prevent and contrast this crises. these people are the religious leaders, since December 2012 understood what was going on and began their work against the war. Catholics, protestants and Muslims formed a inter-religious platform, to think things over together and then travel across the country reporting violences and warning about the possible risks.
this reached several areas of the country. All over christians and muslims met together to help out women and men working for peace. some were spontaneous (Bossemptélé, Bozoum), some more organised (Bouar Bocaranga, Bossangoa...).
this explains how eventually, thousands of muslims eventually took shelter in christians communities (come Carnot, Baoro, Boali Yaloke, Bangui ...)
among the crisis Bozoum stands out as a peculiar case, demonstrating how to face conflict throughout a mediation process trying to reach a solution. The crisis exploded in March 2013 along the arrival of Seleka rebels, a coalition of armed rebels from Ciad, Sudan and northern CAR. It got worse on December 6th with open clashes between Selekas and Antibalakas, causing mass fleeing into the forest or the catholic mission. For a couple of months 4 to 6 thousands people lived there.
This crisis has been faced with courage by few city members: a catholic priest, a protestant pastor, two muslim imams, the prefect secretary, a civil servant of the education ministry, some young people and women. Basically: men and women of good will.
thei approaching method has been based on truth, accountability and let to mediate Seleka's violence and their eventual departure in January 2014. Unfortunately it has been ineffective as to prevent muslim population to leave the country. but definitely helped to limit the damages. the first phase the attacks caused more than 130 people and burning of 1400 houses. After Selekas left there have been 2 dead. Civil society involvement is a strategic strength of this experience. The State has been a huge failure across the whole territory, especially the Provinces. Bozoum's Prefect has been gon sonce the 8th of December last, after being in his position for only 3 weeks. We basically have no police forces, and in general they regularly left as soon as there were rumours of possible attacks....So slowly we built a mediation committee made of men and women of good will, trying to mediate with meetings with Selekas, Antibalaks and populations .. this approach began in December 2013 and after the Selekas left has been an important point for daily meetings: every morning at 8 am they get together along with MISCA (military african union) to analyse situation and decide on security and other important matters.
Antibalakas are not allowed formally, so we don't recognise their authority. but are often heard if they have problems
this committee has a free emergency number for violence and a wise board for problem solving. this was instituted due to the lack of a formal courthouse and to prevent armed people to administrate justice. I believe that one of the element which led to success was a real authority (based on courage and trust) which members of the committee demonstrated. these men and women took risks (I myself I was smacked, stones trowed and shot at) and have a very clear goal in mind: peace. but also these people are aware of their dignity and of the lines not to be crossed: human dignity and respect for anyone. I want to take a moment to highlight women's role on this matter: they had more courage than men! This mediation process resulted also in reopening schools in a 70 km range (that's about 50 schools and 8000 students attending) and distribution of agricultural produce seeds with the help of ONGs.
the military role of the African Union and MISCA has been both positive and negative  positive once they synced and contributed to our mediation path, negative when they didn't join and on occasion left people alone and unprotected (I had to leave my car on the bridge no to let them leave us)
The state role has been very weak, still is. there's a profound crisis since many years: a country with no schools funding has a long way to go. This crisis didn't begin in 2012: it was a results of numerous unresolved issues and errors. If we are to get out of it we need to face a deep change about democracy, corruption, education and justice and the International Community role is essential. A country as poor as this one, with few inhabitants and lots of natural resources can easily fall prey of closer nations, and recent events show CAR as possible junction for terrorism and fundamentalism: Boko Haram e Al-Qaeda are getting closer and closer.
Deciding upon UN intervention in April and begin it in September is too long a timeframe to have. 
Thanks to the international helps in CAR but we all must hurry, and do better and do more!
So far there haven't been making any difference anyway: no real disarmament has occured and the split of this country is a reality. In my humble opinion we need more listening: to higher levels (presidents and governments) but more importantly to everyone involved locally: a  bunch of men and women managed the destruction in Bozoum. Other as the Bangui Archibishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Imam and Pastor Kobine Layama Guerékoyamé are travelling across the nation with their religious platform. It would be very useful to listen and support their work. 
Furthermore I believe it's important not to forget media and internet: they represent a unique instrument for news and information. Through mails, blog and social networks we formed precious links which can help make a difference.
Finally to conclude I'd like to share what I feel. I often wonder: what are we in need of? Money? no. Although it's extremely important due to countless necessities of the population and to grant them humanitarian help. More security forces? perhaps.
they could grant us safety for now, but it's a temporary solution. So i think the most important thing is the core reconstruction: schools, education, training, information. And skills. There are many good hearted people but good intentions are often not enough! We need to know of more experiences, to help us grow in better understanding what to do next. We need to understand what brought this country into chasm, to distinguish the errors made in the past but also to analyse the situation and to come up with ideas how to create a peaceful future. because peace is possible.
UN institution was born after WWII because men and women understood that "it takes more courage to make peace than war "(Pope Francis) and tried their hardest to make this dreams possible. With our efforts, the support of men and women of good will and with God's force we can make this possible!

Thank you for your time



La Cathédrale de Oslo

Le débat sur la Centrafrique, avec Mme la Présidente

A Genève

A Genève

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

From Italy to CAR

From Italy to CAR
Here i am back home in Bozoum. Now let's start from the top 
on the 27th of May I was in Bocca di Magra and with Father Norberto we celebrated 25 year ordination anniversary amongst our brothers of the Province and some friends. On Sunday, the 1st of June I went to Fedio, to spend the day with my family. But I received a big surprise party, at 10 am cars started to arrive, and a minivan and a caravan: friends from all over Paderno Dugnano, Bergamo, Ferrara e Rovigo (!) came here for me.
We celebrated mass together, i got to give thanks once more to our Lord for the gift of priesthood and aftwerwards we shared lunchtime together. In the afternoon we went for a walk up to Madonna del Pino, then everyone went back to their homes.On Monday I said my goodbyes, to mom, my brother and sister and their families. It's not easy for them to watch me leave....but they too are generous.In the afternoon i got to Arenzano and we began our packing (put in, take out, eventually we manage to fit everything inside)
On Tuesday morning we celebrated mass at 5 am in the sanctuary of Baby Jesus in arenzano, then we went to the airport. Our flight to Paris was delayed but we still managed to get to Bangui at 4 pm. I was travelling with Father Davide Sollami, Father Giustino (our new Province Superior) and Eleonora Zucchi, a volunteer from Campo Posidonio (Modena) who will stay with us for three months.
We met Sister Graziana and Sister Rosalie in Paris. Once we got to Bangui (the Capital) we all went to Carmel convent. There are more than 6000 refugees here, since more than 6 months now. In these days there were even more after an attack on the Parish of Fatima, where a priest and 15 people got killed.
On wednesday we left before 6 am and we came across few Antibalakas barriers along the road, but nothing too serious (perhaps due to the fact that there was a convoy escorted by MISCA soldiers) 
Finally we got home in Bozoum about midday....we were welcomed by joyous shouting and many people: Père a ga awè  (Father is back)
And now, back to work!