Uvira (Democratic Republic of Congo) - After the tragic murder of Sophie Zabibu, an elderly woman friend of the Community, the Community of Sant'Egidio in the Kivu region renewed their alliance with the elderly
March 25, 2011
Her name was Sophie Zabibu Mulondala, 80 years old, and was a friend of the Community for several years, ever since the Community of Sant'Egidio in Uvira had started a service to the elderly in the Rombe district.
She was accused of having caused the death of her granddaughter with witchcraft. The local people began throwing stones and using sticks, shooting her to death. Her son, who wanted to defend her, was killed too.
This senseless and violent death has shaken the Community of the Kivu region (the most eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo) who have initiated discussions on how to protect the lives of older people.
The elderly people in Congo experience a very difficult economic and social situation. They are mostly women, widowed and alone, living in utter destitution, forced to beg, lacking food, clothing, exposed to disease and the dangers of the road.
The number grows in the slums of cities. Victims of a culture of contempt, the elderly are often seen as a danger to the younger, strong and active society. It spreads so the killing idea of witchcraft. In fact, very often at the source of these accusations, there are family conflicts.
The Sant'Egidio Community has decided to commit to oppose this culture of contempt and death every week in the district Hyppodrome in Bukavu, the young high school and college of Sant'Egidio visiting the elderly, they gather to pray together.
It's moving the courage and fidelity of these elderly people who make great sacrifices, they walk long distances on foot, just to never miss this appointment.
Over time, among them a strong bond of friendship and solidarity grew, visiting one another when they are sick and sharing the little they have when someone of them is in need.
But, above all, the visits of the youth of the Community, "the students", begin to break the wall of myths and misconceptions that surround the lives of older people in the neighborhoods.
Anastasie, who was treated in the district as a witch, after the boys began to visit her at home, has seen a change in attitude of the neighbors against her.
A culture more human walks in the footsteps of these youngsters, strong of friendship and hope, born from hearing the Gospel, to change the lives of not only the elderly, but the neighborhoods in which they live.