Community of Sant’Egidio, Malawi
Understanding the world can be very crucial in some hemispheres. Since generally when we talk about the peripherals in the world all what comes in mind is a rural or local area of any city or town. But to understand the world we need first to understand the real peripherals of the world. As pope Francis has stated it that we have even the human peripherals of our existence.
It is good that we think of the peripherals in these two horizons:
1) Human peripherals
2) Local or economic peripherals
1- In the human peripherals we need to consider all problems of those whom nobody considers. In these days all over the world, mostly in Europe we are talking about immigration. This is a condition that has now begun interesting both parties, politics and religion. Thinking of how many souls we are losing every now and then in the Mediterranean Sea, questions our values of life. This brings in our life a desire to consider what the world is outside us. The problem of immigration my dear brothers and sisters is a problem that can be seen as an African internal and external fact. In Africa most youths have nowhere to go. Have no answers for their many questions that our societies fell to give. Thinking of low or even non existing chances of securing a good job. This fact is a reality as well in Europe but even in America. The church is trying to bring about change, but the church is not a political arm. So it cannot get deeper than it is needed to. So many African youths are searching for a better future, are searching for a name. Unfortunately this is an unknown success. Nobody knows whether they will reach their goals but they take the risk.
This is why most of our cities are being filled. People moving from the villages to towns with the globalization everyone wants to be connected. When life in the town fails that’s where then comes the idea of leaving one’s own country taking the risk of getting to Europe with means that claims a Million lives. This problem before it becomes a European problem is first of all an African problem. We really need to focus it from within while strengthening our bonds for peace. To defeat immigration there is a need of peace in the world. So those carrying these journeys of death have become as the peripherals of our human existence.
On this same issue, pope Francis talks about the poor people surrounding us as being the peripherals of life. Is calling the Church to open up: “There is a tension between the center and the periphery…. We must get out of ourselves and go toward the periphery. We must avoid the spiritual disease of the Church that can become self-referential: when this happens, the Church itself becomes sick. It’s true that accidents can happen when you go out into the street, as can happen to any man or woman. But if the Church remains closed onto itself, self-referential, it grows old. Between a Church that goes into the street and gets into an accident and a Church that is sick with self-referentiality, I have no doubts in preferring the first”. We can as well talk about the elderly: be it in Europe or in Africa they are becoming a peripheral of our existence. Everyone seems to be concentrating on their own problems hence forgetting the poor and the old people. The old people in African are facing problems like stigma, people calling them witches, steal life from children, in the end they are isolated. Same as in Europe when we chase them out of their homes and send them into institutes ,in the Evangeli Gaudium Pope Francis says: “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel”.
2- The economic peripherals have a lot to offer to the world. For many developments the raw materials are found in the periphery. Just as it was once in the European continent politically, Eastern Europe has always been a peripheral of that continent. But from that periphery we have had significant changes to the World. We can think of St. John Paul II, man of our own time. He brought change to the whole world be it political or religious.
So we don’t have to see the world through the lens of one narrow ideological scheme. As Pope Francis another Pope coming from the peripheries in latin America,once said, I quote from the Civiltà Cattolica online in a document entitled “Work up the World” we have these words of the pope: “I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything. Truly to understand reality we need to move away from the central position of calmness and peacefulness and direct ourselves to the peripheral areas. Being at the periphery helps to see and to understand better, to analyze reality more correctly, to shun centralism and ideological approaches…. It is not a good strategy to be at the center of a sphere. To understand we ought to move around, to see reality from various viewpoints. We ought to get used to thinking. ….This is really very important to me: the need to become acquainted with reality by experience, to spend time walking on the periphery in order really to become acquainted with the reality and life-experiences of people. If this does not happen we then run the risk of being abstract ideologists or fundamentalists, which is not healthy”.
I would like to add that today the world has no borders, the poor people from the south of the world are able to see through televisions what is happening in the northern rich world and they want to have a test of that richness. They admire the life in Europe and always want to find a quick way to live that life. Many youth in the end join very dangerous robbery groups, or militia fighters just to have fast cash, quick success. They come from poor families, these are families which are fragile and adopt anything that brings food to them, anything that brings protection. These groups promise to take care of the families, to educate the children and to bring them to the hospitals when they are sick. These are social services that are supposed to be offered by the different governments but unfortunately they are hard services to be accessed by a poor family. Thus the security in poor countries is becoming a concern due to increased number of youths who have literally no one to take care of but yet they long to have a better life. There are increased number of street children that the community of Sant’ Egidio has to start to face as another battle to fight poverty, this never existed before, a lot villagers coming to the stay in the cities and yet they have nothing or no one to depend to. They need a family they need someone who they can talk to someone who can have time to stop and listen to them even offering a small solution like basic education to them. At a time when the west has closed its doors of help to many African governments the community finds itself with an enormous work to do.
Therefore the increasing growth of the cities in these developing countries has led to many people looking for solutions, searching for answers which they never get, no one is ready to listen, everyone is busy concentrating on improving their own lives. These youths where will they go? Who will explain to them the importance of hope,? Everyone says for them to succeed they have to work hard, but which work do they do? Many people are coming to the city but they cannot integrate very well to the culture of the city and so they find themselves joining the different groups that offer to them the simple and quick solutions to their city difficulties. The community of sant egidio has met many youths who neither work nor go to school. They just stay. The movement for the youth for peace has become very important and relevant to many youths in the cities in Malawi. They meet and together they discuss on how to improve the lives of the others, the lives of the elderly and the lives of the street kids, there are so many street kids in Malawi and the number is increasing by the day. They together learn that to succeed doesn’t mean to be rich and become powerful. We want to help them to go back to school and also to help them to understand the culture of a family the culture of love. They tell us it’s difficult to love when you are in the street everyday we also tell them that it’s difficult to love others if you don’t live the gospel, if you think the best to improve your own life and become rich at the sacrifice of other people. So many children have told that they have never been loved, they don’t know the meaning of a family. The community gives the opportunity to explain to them in a simple way what they would not learn anywhere else.