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THE NATION - Malawi

12 Juny 2010

ST EGIDIO: A community of 60 000 in the world, in 70 countries; 30 in Africa. Founded in 1968 in Rome, by student Andrea Riccardi, then 18

The poor help us live new feelings'

President of the St Egidio Community Professor Marco Impagliazzo, who was in the country, provides insight into the Community's birth, the spread, and now the strides, including a child feeding centre in Machinjiri and the Dream Project whose four year-old HIV initiative to prevent transmission of the virus from mother to child recorded a 10 000th HIV free baby last week. He talks to HERBERT CHANDILANGA.

 
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What necessitated birth of the Community?

It was between two big, historical events—the youth movement of that time and the Second Vatican Council, which is the great assembly of the Pope and the Catholic bishops. Around that time, Nepolis was hit by cholera and the students went to help. There was also a lot of poverty from the South of Italy.
About 100 000 people lived in barracks. The Community moved in to help. It also provided education to children among the devastated people. Today we are in all the continents.
In the beginning, meant a school of peace for children; now it means a lot— treatment of the people living with HIV anti tuns, caring for the elderly, feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners...the situation of prisons are terrible; not only in Africa, but also in Europe.

What are the Community's objectives?

First of all, to spread the gospel. After the Second Vatican Council, the Church gave the gospel to all faithful, not only bishops, but even lay people. Riccardi also discovered that in the gospel, Jesus identifies himself with the poor, the hungry, the thirsty...the prisoners [Matthew 25].
It depends on the context, yet our roots remain the same; listening to the gospel, praying and serving the poor.

What is the strategy?

The strategy is not to have a strategy; we are a community — we consider ourselves a family. We group people in the school of gospel in order to communicate the gospel. The community is led by local people, with the centre still in Rome.

What distinguishes St Egidio?

Bringing people together to meet the poor; the lonely, and abandoned elderly, the poor children, the sick, the disabled...This is the crucial point of our Community.
It changes people's hearts; in a materialistic society where everything is on the market and nothing is free of charge, the poor help us to live new feelings.
They have nothing to give you, but they can make you happy; they can give you the gift of happiness. So, the gospel is fulfilled. The reality around us changes.

Any examples of success?

We are proud of our work to treat and fight HIV and Aids througt the Dream Project spread it 10 African countries, including Malawi, with 80 000 people under treatmem The aim is to stop HIV transmission from pregnan mothers to their unborn. Last week, we recorded a 10000th child born without the virus.
You may also wish to knot we were the official facilitators of the peace process in Mozambique in 1992. The pact was signed at St Egidio in Rome. Now, many come for help. Last week, we signed another pact — Guinea Conakry — on elections next month. Side promised to accept results. We also facilitate the relationship among religions in line with the heritage of the great day of peace started by Pope Paul John II in 1986 in San Francis Italy. We want the world to live together; it is one of our main missions in the 21" century.

What is Sant Egidio's vision for Malawi?

It is that Malawi remains a peaceful country as it has always been. The strength of Malawi is peace. When there is peace we can do anything. dream a future of peace where people of different tribes can live together, in a peaceful way, with respect for each other. 1 dream the same for the world.

What has been the biggest [Malawian] challenge so far?


Malawi has got a strength; the youth. But often, due to poverty, they don't have a chance to emerge and give their best. Today, through the youths, we're doing great things. Recently, we launched a programme to care for the elderly. President Bingu wa Mutharika attended. St Egidio is working towards promoting respect for and acceptance of the elderly. Globalisation [and its fight for resources] can create some problems. First, people see others as enemies. Consider the issue of immigration of people from Africa and Asia to Europe. How big is this issue? It brings lots of suspicion in people in Europe. So, people must learn to live together. This is my dream.


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