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THE NATION - Malawi

May 15 2011

The youth are the dream

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Catholic movement, Community of Sant’ Egidio that organizes youth into humanity efforts, was in the country recently. As he met Herbert Chandilanga, he examines a couple of issues from the Sant’ Egidio and Religious point of view.

 
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The youth are the dream; where do you place the Malawian youth on the global picture?
In the 70s, there was a song in Malawi that said ‘Palibe Chomwe Ndiona.’  But Pope John Paul II said ‘a man suffers when he lacks vision.’ So, the youth have to have vision for the future.
Malawi has positive minded youth – always available. This is one of the vital forces for Malawi.
It is a country with a rich history of peace. Malawian youth share the same ethnicity with youth of Mozambique, but they are two different people because their national histories are different.
But Malawian youths are fighting illiteracy, unemployment and HIV and Aids, all at once, and it’s a big problem….
Although I’m a stranger here, I still must tell you this; I believe the greatest problem among the youth in the village is agriculture. Agriculture is fundamental.
There is another problem with elders. The traditional family has changed; the elders have no place in there, meaning they don’t have food, assistance or land. They are a target for violence. This is also a problem in Europe.

How does it affect the youth?
You chase in elderly person from the family, you chase them away from life. The elders are a bank of knowledge. There’s need to defend them – it’s a cultural fact that we will all become old.

About HIV and Aids?

Well, it’s a national battle. Through the Community of Sant’ Egidio Dream Project, the first thing is to save the child from HIV and Aids. We are collaborating well with government.
We have 18 000 people on HIV and Aids treatment in 10 centers. About 3 000 babies have been born free of HIV and Aids through the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT).

Sant’ Egidio is based on love, just like the church. How much has the church done in Malawi?
The church has an ancient history, growing up with the nation and always being near the people. It is the heart of the Malawian history.
We just celebrated Easter, which is not just a season without meaning. It is the victory of life over death. It is the greatest hope that nothing is impossible with God. We are living in a world so resigned.
Europe has resigned because it’s afraid of losing its worth; Africa because of poverty; the youths too have are resigned. But everything is possible for they that believe.

Looking at that, what does the future hold?
We are in 2011, past 10 years or war, terrorism (September 11), violence and prejudice and accusations. The next 10 years should be a period of peace. Sant’ Egidio understands this.

In view of world peace, where is Africa?
We have a big crisis in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. But Africa has progressed in the last 20 years. We (Sant’ Egidio) have helped with the passage to democracy in Guinea Conakry and Niger. Democracy is a complicated history – it has a need for social progress. If I am miserable – ignorant, have nothing to eat – I will not participate in democracy. There is a responsibility.

Is democracy working for Africa?
Democracy is not a mathematical formula. It is a history. Winston Churchill said there is nothing worse than democracy. But until today, we haven’t invented something better than democracy. Democracy is always tiresome, but it brings peace.

Where does Sant’ Egidio place Malawi?
In the vision of Sant’ Egidio, Malawi is so important. It is where religions live together in peace – an example to Africa and the world. This is important.

What is Sant’ Egidio’s vision in the next couple of years?

Ten years of peace where dialogue – and not violence – will be used and where the fight against poverty will be the centre; a world which will not be just about ‘materialism of money’ but also of the spirit.

For Malawi?
Sant’ Egidio is intending to invest more energy in Malawi. Sant’ Egidio is a community of Catholics who live in contact with the people, without payment.

What is your word to the youth?

The youth should not lose hope – there’s a better life. Do not lose the typical generosity. There’s more joy in giving than in receiving.


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