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April 25 2017 | BERLIN, GERMANY

Youth, Africa and interreligious dialogue at the centre of the meeting between Andrea Riccardi and Angela Merkel

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A long meeting focused on the future of Europe, the youth and building peace. It was not the first time that Angela Merkel met Andrea Riccardi. It had already happened three years ago in Berlin and - in addition to other occasions - in February 2015, when the Chancellor visited the Community in Rome. This afternoon in Berlin, the audience granted to the founder of Sant'Egidio lasted for 50 minutes, giving the opportunity to talk about the most sensitive topics that cross Europe, in search of new common visions. First of all, the endurance of Europe and of all those values that Europe itself expresses: they are not only for the past, but they must feed the future of Europe. So, in order to enhance the integration project, younger generations should be involved with new initiatives. For them, Merkel and Riccardi agreed - together with the President of Sant'Egidio Marco Impagliazzo, who was present at the meeting - that it is necessary to invent an "Erasmus of employment" that promotes socially useful work, contributes to training and integration in the world of work. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to simplify farraginous mechanisms, which too often form a barrier.

Angela Merkel and Andrea Riccardi - both were awarded of the Charlemagne Prize - believe that the phenomenon of immigration must be tackled with policies that combine humanity and security. Merkel congratulated for the success of humanitarian corridors, promoted by Sant'Egidio and the Protestant Churches, that let 800 Syrian refugees safely reach Italy. Safely for them (because they travel by plane instead of on boats), safely for the European citizens (beacuse of the checks made on departure). A model for Europe, which last month was also adopted by France.

Riccardi and Merkel also talked about international cooperation in the most troubled African countries, most of them are the same from which migrants leave. Africa is seen as "the new frontier of Europe", starting from the Sahel band. Cooperation must be committed to supporting the construction of African civil societies, in order to create employment and development. It is necessary to widen chances of emancipation from the poverty and the marginality of large sections of the population. In this field, the strategic function of programs is crucial, such as the one launched by Sant'Egidio for birth registration in Africa ("BRAVO"), in particular in Burkina Faso, where more than three million people, mostly under 18, came out from "invisibility".

Angela Merkel was invited to the next meeting of Prayer for Peace that will take place in the German cities of Münster and Osnabrück from 10 to 12 September 2017. Another important step in the conversation concerned interreligious dialogue. According to the Chancellor, African Islam, together with the "historical" Churches, such as Catholic and Protestant Churches, must work together to contribute to the construction of civil society and to promote reconciliation in regions often crossed by violence and conflict: an appeal against any fundamentalism, that of radical Islamist groups, and that of religious sects of Christian denominations in Africa. A work for peace and dialogue, which is a ground for encounter and collaboration between the German Government and the Community of Sant'Egidio, that needs to be intensified.

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