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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Traveling, Ash Wednesday and jobs awaiting us.

Traveling, Ash Wednesday and jobs awaiting us.
Sunday, February 15th, we arrived in Bangui, the capital City, around 4 pm, with no surprises or troubles, spending there Monday and Tuesday, because of some meetings. The situation in the capital remains tense. On Tuesday we are facing problems (demonstrations, a car attacked and burned), but I can move around well enough. Tuesday night I have the joy to welcome, just arrived with Air France, 4 persons very dear to me: Fr. Carlo a Carmelite friar, who returns to teach with his well-known passion, Mario Mazzali, a worker's non-stop of Pegognaga, a friend from Cuneo Paul Silvestro, and Maurizio my nephew, who is back to give us a precious help. Wednesday morning we leave Bangui under a refreshing rain accompanying us for the first 220 km. After a quick stop at Bossemptelewe we arrive at Bozoum at 3.00pm.Today is Ash Wednesday; a day of prayer, reflection and fasting which marks the beginning of a special time: Lenten Season. A few hundred Christians began the day on Binon, a hill above Bozoum.
At 5.00pm I celebrate the Eucharist in which I recall to me and everyone the need to fight the indifference (towards God and our brothers) a subject marking deeply this Lenten season, in which we are in front of God’s Mercy manifested in the death and Passion of Jesus Christ.  On Thursday Mario, Maurice and Paul begin their work: they have to assemble and install the solar panels. It’s a long and heavy job, but they aren’t scared. Working hours are intense, but of course there are breaks, and what really matter there’s a very good mood. On Friday, while I go to visit an old lady, I step through the gardens (those of the Fair ...) and I am so pleased to see how beautiful they still are and fully fruitful.

Youssouf con il suo mulino per il mangime delle galline ovaiole

Sosta a Bossemptele
Pause à Bossemptele

Paolo in visita agli Orti di Bozoum
La visite aux Jardins potagers de Bozoum

Maurizio e Mario

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meetings, kilometers and laughter

Riunione con i novizi a St Elie - Bouar

Meetings, kilometers and laughter
This week, the visit of Fr. Giustino, Provincial Superior, with his Councilors Fr. Franco, Fr. Marco and Fr. Davide is reaching an end. On Monday we are at Yole, always at Bouar, to meet with fathers who work here for Formation: they follow seventy kids, from elementary to high school. In the afternoon we have a meeting with all the Carmelites Fathers working in Central Africa, training young people. It’s a precious time for discussions and sharing of views on the various stages of the formation beginning from the seminary to the high school, and further on from the novitiate to the philosophy and theology studies. On Tuesday morning we close the Central African visit of our Superiors with a Plenary Council. It was a meeting of all the Fathers present in Central Africa Delegation (15 Missionaries from Italy, Central Africa and Czech Republic. Father Giustino, the Provincial Superior, explains the reason for this visit: witness the gratitude of the Carmelite Province of Liguria (Genoa) to the religious who live and work in Central Africa, especially to thank everyone for their courage and dedication during these two years of war. At the meeting we discuss of various subjects and projects. The conclusion is the Eucharistic Celebration, followed by lunch enriched by ravioli made by Filomena, Fr. Federico’s mother under the watchful eye of her vigilant husband Giuseppe.  Around 1.30pm we drive towards the border with Cameroon. There we stop to greet our Central African students, brother Rodrigue, brother Christo, and two fathers of our Liguria Province, who work in the Capital City, Yaounde. And now we go to the border, where everything seems going quite quickly (an hour and a half ...), for the necessary paperwork. We go to visit Youssouf, a Muslim friend, who was our neighbor at Bangui. Last year, because of the war, he had to abandon everything and take refuge here with his family. Here, in Garoua Boulay, has built a breeding of 26 000 laying hens! We spend the night here. The next day, Wednesday morning, we leave ready to cover the last 600 km. The roads are good, companionship too, and above all some good laugh lighten the journey. At 2.15pm we finally reach our parish in Yaounde, in the district of Nkoabang. From here we move to the other Convent, in the district of Nkolbisson, where we meet our students, the Fathers and Dominic Marco. Among them others too: Fr. Marie Joseph (French) and Cameroonian students. Thursday goes fast, with a good number of meetings. We cheered and feel refreshed by a nice rain (the very first this year). On Friday morning alarm clock at 3 ... to accompany the Provincial Superior and his Councilors at the airport. Greetings, hugs, and departure: they to Europe, while I go back to the city for some shopping. Around 1.00pm I leave Yaounde, and after about 400 km I am in Bertoua, where I spend the night. Here I meet Junior, student at the St. Augustin’s High School of Bozoum. I support Junior in his studies here at University of Economics. Saturday morning I move towards the border. I go through with no problems. At noon I’m in Bouar, after driving for about 400 km. Sunday I leave, driving towards   Bangui (once more... 450 km). For a couple of days I will stay here attending to some meetings and waiting for friends coming from Italy...

Arrivo alla Yolé - Bouar

Les Suore indiane della Yolé

I ravioli a St Elie con mamma Filomena e papà Giuseppe, e il figlio p Federico

L'allevamento di Yussuf a Garoua Boulaye

Sosta in Camerun

il Coro dei Carmelitani a Yaounde

Momento di preghiera sulla tomba di fr Thierry

Riunione in Cameroun

Thursday, February 12, 2015

From one Fair to another one.

Fiera di Bozoum: la mamma di Hyppolite (Concorso orti)
Foire de Bozoum: la maman de Hyppolite (cooncours jardins potagers)

From one Fair to another one.
On February 1st, afternoon, the 12th Bozoum Fair was over. The conclusion was just a brief ceremony, introduced by a short play created and presented by the students of our “St. Augustine” high school. I was amazed at the capability of reflection and criticism with regard of certain aspects of society in Central Africa. In this play a group of villagers goes to discuss with the village headwoman about some bad habits of people, like selling off WFP food received by NGO’s, or selling off agricultural tools received as a gift for just few coins, or like when they receive the nets, and the people instead of hanging them on their beds they use them to fish or to work in the fields. So, the message is clear: if we receive something, let's not waste it, instead use it in the way it should be. It’s behaving in the right way that our village can grow! After the short play, it's time for the awards for the best exhibitors and the best gardens. The prizes: some agricultural tools, and medals for the top 10. I have to say: how much pride in the simplicity of those faces and those hands. When everything is over we take a look at the proceeds in money. We find out that between sales of agricultural products, together with the extra gain from restaurants and bars, the amount in money of all business  this year is about 20 million f CFA ( 30, 000 EUR ). It’s not bad for these times of war.
Monday I leave for Bangui taking Alessio, a bricklayer, on his way back to Italy. While there I welcome some special guests: Fr. Giustino, our Provincial Superior with his advisers Fr. Franco Rudasso, Fr. Marco Pesce and Fr. Davide Sollami, pretty much the Government of our religious Province. They came on this 5th Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila Birthday, our Foundress, in order to express the affection and closeness to all of us. The friendly visit is marked by moments of prayer, meetings, personal dialogue, sharing of projects, and analysis of our situations. On top of all commitments we had also moments of relax and laugh.  The Bible says, "How good and how pleasant it is for the brothers to share time together”.
Thursday morning we move at 5.00 am from Bangui. We left so early because we wanted to avoid the barriers of antibalaka. On Monday before, opposite today’s direction, I took the courage to put down one of these barriers, 26 km from Bangui, because they claimed I would have to pay for if I wanted to go ahead. After a brief stop in Bossemptele, at noon we reach Bozoum. Here too, we have to face meetings and meetings, but without forgetting a tasty pizza. Saturday we leave heading to Baoro, where we meet Fathers Renato, Lionello and Dieudonné.
Sunday morning we drive to Bouar and once introduced our Visitors at St. Elijah convent, I go downtown in order to visit the Fair which, as Caritas, we organize each year. I can see large crowd, farming Cooperatives, and even some Organisms and members of UN. All these in my feeling are seeds for present and future consistent hope.
Here I share a link to a few short videos of Bozoum Fair:


Celebrazione al Carmel (Bangui)

Con l'Arcivescovo di Bangui

le risaie di Bozoum
le riz à Bozoum

Fiera di Bouar
Foire de Bouar

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sowing Peace

Sowing Peace.
 It’s time again for the great Bozoum Fair!
 After having organized the last Fair in 2013 and, before the Seleka “coup d’etat”, we had to wait two years and skip the 2014 edition because of the fight between antibalaka and Seleka.
 Finally to-day, Saturday January 31st, we officially opened the 12th edition of the Bozoum Fair which will last till the day after tomorrow, February 1st, 2015. It’s a bet made on hope, on peace, a bet on what is beautiful and good, on the future, on the land, on the work and on the pride of who humbly works the fields to eat but also to feed her/his own dignity, as a woman as a man.
 Represented are 178 co-operatives, they are from Bozoum, Bocaranga, Ndim, Ngaundaye, Bossemptele, Taley.........some travelled 210Km! We of the Caritas, with Cordaid (a Dutch Catholic ONG), are working on this for almost a month! We have to send invitations to the authorities and organizations; to the agricultural cooperatives (we follow more than 600 ones with a total of more than 16,500 supporters), we have to visit the main centres to coordinate and organize. Just in these few days we have to organize the departure of the trucks needed to transport products (and people). Till yesterday I wasn’t sure about the success of this Fair. To go ahead and do it now, with the actual tension, with armed people around, with the recent ended war, it has been a bet but for now....we are winning!!! I gave a big sigh of relief when I did see the first trucks arrive!!!
Yesterday there was a joyful expectation among Bozoum people and a happy atmosphere! The Fair is held in a trees area, where once was the society that worked the cotton. Here we organized about 30 stands and around them, quickly, tents and divisors have been raised by women associations and privates to set up restaurants and bars.  This morning at 7:00AM I was at the site. After half an hour the boys of the last year at our Saint Augustin High School arrived too. They are the ones taking care of the hospitality and also for gathering data about the products and the sales. They are very proud and in their uniform they stand out in the crowd. Full of good will they give a hand here and there and in turn they learn!
 At 9:00AM the opening ceremony started with the parade of the cooperatives: a happy moment celebrating the dignity of who works in the fields. After few speeches the Fair was open and we visited the stands. The first was Caritas, the second our “Cana” the Centre for the Promotion of the Women, soon after, was the turn of the one of our boys and girls of the Centre for the orphans “Arc en Ciel”, showing the products of their work: bracelets, mats, baskets, sandals....
Later we visited the stands of the different cooperatives, with rice, peanuts, corn, millet, sesame, beans and many other products of their work. I could see a celebration of colours and faces finally cheerful after 2 year of war. In the afternoon we went to see 13 vegetable gardens. A way to spur and encourage who is working during the dry season, reclaiming some deserted areas of the city and to promote horticulture.
When one comes upon the “gardens valley” the view is breath taking: the green of the vegetables on the red soil, everything clean and i order. Bravo to all!  The Sunday, after the Mass, is still set apart for sales but the afternoon will be dedicated to the closing, with prizes to the best exhibitors and the best gardens.
A Fair could be a moment of joy and peace. These days slogan is “Farm the Peace”: and this requires time, labor and humility. How to work the land: timing, good weather, rain, and toil without being disheartened, humbling submit. At the end you’ll see the fruits.
The same is for Peace!

I nostri ragazzi del Liceo St.Augustin al lavoro!
Les élèves de notre Lycée St.Augustin au travail!

I ragazzi e ragazze del Centro Orfani Arc en Ciel con i loro lavoretti...
Les filles et les garçons de notre Centre pour Orphelins Arc en Ciel, avec leurs oeuvres