Aachen 2003

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September 9, Tuesday - Katschhof
Final Ceremony


Beatrice Kun Adon
Community of Sant’Egidio

My name is Beatrice and I come from Liberia. In recent times my country has been the focus of international attention because of the tragic events it has experienced. Liberia was the first African nation to achieve independence; its name means the land of the free men. But for the past 15 years it has been a slave to war. A terrible civil war started in 1990 and until recently the world did not seem to pay much attention to it.

Like many of my fellow countrymen, I had to leave my country. In 1990 I landed as a refugee in Tabou, in Cote D’Ivoire, a country in peace, a place where there were many other foreigners besides the Liberian, and some had been living there for several generations. Fortunately, as soon as I arrived, the Community of Sant’Egidio present in that small town on the border with Liberia immediately welcomed me. That small community has become a new family for me and I was deeply touched by what it did. I wondered to myself how come young Ivorians were helping us foreigners by teaching French to our children without asking for anything back. And my mind went back to many other children, still in my country, forced by adults to take up arms even at 8 or 10 years old, children sold for a handful of dollars.

I started believing in peace and working for this dream together with other young Liberians and Ivorians, it was the dream of seeing Africa free from war. I got married in Ivory Coast, and it became my second home. So now I can say I am Liberian and Ivorian. But many people experience the same in Western Africa, where once there were no borders.

In 1997 things seemed to improve for Liberia: elections had taken place and a new president had been elected. Many Liberians started going back home, among them were my parents. Now, as I speak, I have no news from them, because in the meanwhile the civil war has broken out once more, and it is even more violent than before. Many of my fellow countrymen had to flee back to Cote D’Ivoire, but not all of them succeeded: some died as they approached the frontier, struck down by the rains and by hunger. And those who made it back found that Cote D’Ivoire had changed: in the past few years this country too was involved in a civil war and many interethnic problems.

But today I have a powerful hope in my heart. It rises from these three days of meeting and dialogue free from the limitations of borders. I thank all those who participated and I thank the Community of Sant’Egidio whose name for us Africans means peace and hope in a new Africa. I can see it in the fact that where diplomacy and politics fail, the “diplomacy of friendship and prayer” can succeed. I thank you especially for what you have done in the past few months for my country: the Community of Sant’Egidio did not forget Liberia and both in Rome and Ghana it performed a precious role as mediator. Thanks to the efforts of those who worked for peace, today my country is opening to hope once again, in spite of many difficulties.

In these days I have lived with great intensity with all of you, men and women belonging to different religions and cultures, and I have seen that here in Aachen peace has ruled. My heart needs peace. My continent, Africa, is waiting for peace. The whole world yearns for peace. Tomorrow I will leave with this hope and this message. I will keep in my heart everything I have seen and experienced, and I will carry the memory of all of you to my country, so that it may finally rise again and experience the peace that comes from the highest.



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