President of “Gandhi Association”, Eritrea
I bear the witness of the work for dialogue and peace I experience during the past five years in the Sinai.
I am Eritrean, but I lived in Italy in the past 35 years. Since many years, I receive phone calls, regardless of it being day or night, from Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese refugees who flee their countries to save their life, but who end up being kidnapped by human traffickers during their journey.
When these refugees reach the camps located in Sudan, they are kidnapped by Sudanese Bedouins who sell them to the Egyptian Bedouins for approximately 3,000 dollars per person. The latter keep them in chains, in the subsoil, close to their homes, and request for ransom, which may range from 30,000 to 50,000 dollars
In order to force their relatives to pay for the ransom, they torture and rape the women. In this appalling situation, a pathway of hope was opened thanks to a noteworthy collaboration with a salafite Sheik of the Sinai.
I actually met Sheik Mohammed four years ago, after the Christian and Muslim refugees had spoken me about him. They told me: “There is a man of Islamic faith who is helping us to flee from the grip of traffickers”.
I went to meet him; we spoke together, and we set up a dialogue coupled with peaceful collaboration aimed at the liberation of refugees with no payment of ransom. In the past two years we liberated 480 prisoners from the grip of the Bedouins.
Every Friday, the Sheik speaks to the families of the Bedouins who detain the refugees. He teaches them that the Al-Koran and religion at large do not admit practicing violence against people. Me too, as a Christian, I felt myself cherished in the same spirit - spirit of courage and hope. The Sheik protects me, as if I was his sister, and defends the life of Christians as if they were his relatives.
Dialogue and encounter among people of different faiths, joining hands to defend the life of the outcast and the poor, brings us towards unity in the same spirit. Prayer is a daily companion of my journeys, and I retrieve the power of faith when I meet refugees, and when I meet Sheik Mohamed. Today, in the Sinai, the phenomenon of human trafficking is reduced by 30 per cent. I believe we will be able to disband this plague through collective endeavours, and through prayer, faith and the Courage of Hope. I thank the Community of Sant’Egidio for having organized these days of prayer and hope, because they strengthen my commitment. Next week I will carry the same spirit to the Sheik Mohammed, who meanwhile conveys his greetings to you all, and especially to the Community of Sant’Egidio.