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Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Cardinal on a tour

A Cardinal on a tour
Here is the surprise of this week: the visit of the Cardinal, the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga!
As soon as he was elected Cardinal he planned a visit to all the dioceses of the Country, and he began right from our, the diocese of Bouar.
Wednesday morning he left the Capital, and after a stop at the parish (and hospital) of Bossemptele, at 5.00pm arrived in Bozoum   A large crowd came to welcome him, right on the road leading to the Mission. We joined him, with songs and shouts of joy and few unintended pushes, to the church where he could pray and address his first greeting to the people. People are more than enthusiastic, also because it he is the only prominent figure and reference for all Central Africa.
Thursday morning we have a busy schedule to enable the Cardinal to come to know the various entities of the parish, and then ready to continue on his pastoral journey. At 6:30 am Mass: despite the early hour, the church is packed. It is a beautiful celebration, with dancing, singing, prayer, listening to God's Word, and to the words of our Cardinal: an invitation to always trust in God, to grow in faithfulness to His Love and the love that reaches all the brothers, without distinction, and look beyond in order to build the Country's future with reliability. After the Mass we went to visit with him the High School, where teachers and students welcomed him with joy, listening carefully his message of trust in the young, and of responsibility for everyone to build up a serious future full of hope, dreaming an honest work by following their studies.
Then we went to visit the Elementary school, and after, we had a meeting with the Parish Council in order to make him known about the realities of the parish. They listen to his advice and encouragement.
We end with a meeting with antibalaka, the rebels who disseminate fear and worry. They listen to him carefully, even if his words go straight to the heart of the problem.
After greeting the Sisters, we head towards Bocaranga, a city far from here 125 km. Bocaranga, on February 2, was attacked by dozens of Peul, which killed 21 people, burned the market and many shops, spreading terror during never ending 4 hours. People fled, some of them came to Bozoum. And all this happened despite a contingent of UN peacekeepers, who did not intervene, allowing the massacre.
Along the way many villages await the Cardinal! I leave right away to forego, notifying villages, and possibly signaling whether there are security problems. We stop in Tolle, 60 km from Bozoum, where Cardinal wants to greet all the people sharing together a moment of prayer. I go ahead, and 3.00 pm I'm in Bocaranga. There are a lot of people waiting for him: it is virtually the first moment of happy celebration and calm for the people of the city and the thousands of evacuees. The welcome is triumphant, and in a jubilation of songs, joyful screams and dust the Cardinal and the people walk towards the church. After a moment of rest, we meet with the missionaries and the Sisters of Bocaranga, together with Ndim and Ngaundaye Missions. It is a very intense moment in which the Cardinal expresses the gratitude of the Church and of the people for the faithful presence, despite the dangers and war. There are young Sisters and Fathers in their 80s, some of which are in Central Africa since 1960!!! 
Friday morning we celebrate the Mass. here too it’s a very solemn celebration. At 6.30 the church is already full, and many need to take place outside! After Mass, the Cardinal meets with students and teachers, and then he meets the people of Bocaranga, ending with a conversation with antibalaka. To them, as he did in Bozoum, the Cardinal recommended to have a better vision of the life looking far, taking roads of peace, of reconciliation, of construction and not destruction and killings. 
At about 11:30 the Cardinal leaves going towards Bouar while I stay because of some meetings with Caritas of the Parish and some agricultural cooperatives, to see how to help the city and the thousands of evacuees who have fled and here took refuge. The needs are huge!
It is sad to see the abandonment by the State of much of the territory. Here, the Government seems to have only rights and no duties: the roads are a joke, schools and hospitals are left to the sensibilities of parishes, NGOs and people of good will; the police are absent and powerless. And this goes together with the presence of a large UN mission, which, despite an impressive deployment of people and resources, seems not to have a clear desire for peace.
It is emblematic of what I'm saying this simple fact that I witnessed this morning. During the meeting with pupils and students, a girl 14-15 y.o. has brought a letter in which she explains the situation to the President of the Republic. And she said (I quote): "I hand it over to you, Your Eminence, so for sure you give it to the President of the Republic: because if I give to others, will never come into his hands" !!!

Bozoum, Lycée St Augustin

Bozoum, école Bakanjia

Bozoum, école Maternelle


Un antibalaka... armato e non disturbato da nessuno!
Un antibalaka, armé...

Bocaranga, riunione con i religiosi e le religiose

Bocaranga, riunione con gli antibalaka

Saturday, February 18, 2017

From Bouar to Bozoum


From Bouar to Bozoum
On Friday night I’m back to Central Africa, after my visit to Cameroon. I did stop at Bouar where I could attend the opening of the Agricultural Fair, which Caritas has been organizing for 7 years, thanks to the work of Father Beniamino Gusmeroli.
Saturday afternoon I leave with Father Enrico, and through the direct route we arrive in the evening in Bozoum, finally!
In these days we are performing some improvements in the church. I have installed 6 ventilators to improve a bit the old part of the church, were we suffer a very high degree of heat this season. Enrico Massone instead began to apply the tiles to the sanctuary. Thanks to our friend Cesare Biancini (and family) we received the tiles which will allow having a cleaner environment and also a dignified area. It is a long and hard work, but Enrico Massone is used to: this year Enrico is going to celebrate 30 years of working in Central Africa, where he comes regularly each year for one or two months , since 1987!
And next week ... there will be a surprise!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cameroon 2017

Cameroon 2017
I just arrived in Bouar, after a bit more than 2,000 km covered to reach Cameroon, at Yaounde. The week was, as always, quite animated!
On Sunday we closed the Bozoum Agricultural Exhibition. The results, despite the insecurity and lack of many cooperatives, have been good, with a volume of revenue of exchanges around 22 and 30 thousand Euros. On Sunday afternoon we presented the awards to the best exhibitors and the best gardens.
On Monday morning we begin the "Week of Culture” at our High School "St. Augustin". It is a week full of cultural events (film screenings, debates, lectures, dances, competitions, etc.) prepared by the students, together with their teachers and under the direction of Sister Annita.
In the late morning I rush to Bozoum Airport, boarding a small plane of the United Nations, which in an hour leads me to Bangui, where I have some meetings regarding the future construction projects. Tuesday morning we all wake up at 4:30, and after the Mass celebration we leave with Fr.Federico towards Cameroon, which is not just round the corner! At 12.30 pm we are in Bouar, and in the afternoon, after taking with us Fr.Enrico, we continue towards the border.
Crossing the border is always uncertain: sometimes it takes just an hour, sometimes 3-4 hours. We're pretty lucky, and after "only" an hour and a half we are again on the road, and at 7.30pm we reach Bertoua, where we spend the night. Here we meet some Central African friends, who had to flee the Country in 2014, and are seeking to rebuild their business. We leave on Wednesday morning, and at noon we are at Yaounde, at 1,200 km from Bangui. We are here to meet the Friars and our young trainees, but also to make some purchases (seeds, medicines, wood glue…). The time is limited but we take the opportunity to greet the Ambassador of Italy in Cameroon, who in October came in Bozoum.
Friday at 5:45am we leave Yaounde and in the evening we arrive in Bouar. Along the way we meet a group of rebels, who is stationed there for months now, without being disturbed by the security forces or by the UN Peacekeepers. 
At Bouar the situation is quite tense, because there is fear of attacks and riots. In the night between Thursday and Friday there was a general stampede, because of the many circulating "voices".
Suzanne, la vincitrice del concorso degli orti
Suzanne, le lauréat du concours des jardins potagers


La comunità dei Carmelitani a Yaounde

Acquisto di sementi
Achat de semences à Yaounde

Forno a legna a Bertoua
le four à bois à Bertoua

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Agricultural Fair 2017

Agricultural Fair 2017
Despite everything and everyone ... yes, we were again able this year to organize the great Agricultural Show of Bozoum.
We initiated the Fair on 2004 reaching at present the 13th Edition! We wanted it to encourage all farmers and their cooperatives. It is a celebration of farmers proudness.
Since long ago we all believe that there’s no peace without development, and we continue to encourage the efforts of so many women and men of good will, supported by the conviction that it is only with work, patience and  passion that we can build up the dignity of a person.
Unfortunately the 2017 Edition took place in a difficult moment. Just the day before, Friday February 2nd, a band of rebels attacked the town of Bocaranga, 125 km away, burning houses and market, looting and killing at least 18 people. Due to the insecurity we couldn’t invite the cooperatives of farmers from Bocaranga, Koui, Ndim, Ngaundaye and Paoua. Their absence has greatly reduced the presence of exhibitors and the volume of the goods displayed and sold. In addition to this, we have not received any kind of help or funding from the various NGOs, contrary to previous years. But the Providence is great, and we could manage with our few resources! It took almost a month to prepare the Fair. No shortage of volunteers, staff, and also students of the last class of our High School St. Augustin, which proudly and with availability welcome, register and follow the activities.
Saturday morning, however, we are all ready. The exhibition area well cleaned up, the stands are pretty organized and at 9am we start with a little parade. At this moment we should have the usual introductory speeches by the Authorities, but in months there are not Authorities in Bozoum.
The Fair is an exhibition space to show the most beautiful aspect of agriculture and the resulting business. 
In the afternoon we visit a dozen gardens and here too, a feast for the eyes and for the heart!
Simple people, who work hard, and proudly presents the fruits of their efforts. 
Too beautiful!

gli alunni del nostro Liceo
les élèves de notre Lycée St Augustin