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November 20 2013

World Day of Childhood and Adolescence: Sant'Egidio on the side of children

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 In the World Day of Childhood and Adolescence, we think of the many children who live in precarious conditions in many parts of the world, even in Italy. Too many children still do not receive any education, which is instead the most effective factor in human development. 67 million children do not know school, most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. 42% of the children without school live in countries at war.

These are just a few frightening figures but, for the Community of Sant'Egidio, these figures represent concrete situations, real children that we meet in many parts of the world, that we protect and help to study and grow. They are Guinean children that must buy the bench to be able to go to school, and therefore they often do not go there, Mozambican children that attend school under a tree in 150 children, children of Malawi that live in remote villages and must walk for hours to get to school. They are the children helped by our Community of Northern Uganda, forced to flee war, many times without their parents. They are called night commuters, because as soon as night falls, they flee the villages to seek refuge in the cities where they seek shelter and security that they do not find. Children that are abducted and forced to join the rebel bands.

Many of them work, as in Asia, dealing with work from an early age, to help the families, to earn some money with which to live or rather survive. Or the millions of street children: we meet them in Latin America, Asia, Africa, it is all too easy to end up on the street.

For all these children, the participation in the Schools of Peace that the Community of Sant'Egidio develops in every country where it is present becomes a defence of life. Here, street children that no longer have a family and suffer from loneliness and despair, find the love and serenity they need so much, along with a large family.

At least 60,000 children attend our "Schools of Peace" every year in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. This is where they learn to read and write, but they also find friendship and the world becomes less hostile and stops being frightening. Processes of extraordinary effectiveness are triggered to find hope and remain in their country of origin with the capacity to improve their conditions of life and those of others. This is where they learn to grow without identifying the others as threats or enemies, as in Rwanda and Burundi, where Hutus and Tutsis study together, or in Indonesia, where Muslim and Christian children celebrate together the holidays, but also in Europe where children overcome the prejudice against gypsies or immigrants, children of the big suburbs that are not left alone with the temptation of violence and aggressiveness.

The Schools of Peace are a wonderful lesson of love for children who do not know it or have received little. For children that can finally learn to love because they are loved. Some taste the happiness of being loved in the School of Peace for the first time. These children live a welcome and friendship without conditions. They become aware of the great gift of peace and learn to strongly reject violence and war. This is one of the most beautiful fruits of our schools of peace, truly Schools of Peace in a world that teaches violence.


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