I would like to tell you the story of Tarekegn who used to be a street child. Tarekegn comes from a family that is not well-off. He has both parents and as many as seven siblings. Tarekegn used to go with his father to the district called Zero Amist. His father used to give catechesis in one of the Protestant churches. The boy, however, began to fall into bad company. In the local area, he met street children who encouraged him to use stimulants, to go out with them and to beg.
Tarekegn got so screwed that one time he ran away by himself and stayed on the street. He began to spend days and nights there. He took on some very bad habits. His family knew this and had sporadic contact with him as his home is just outside Awassa and his father works in the city itself. Tarekegn, however, was not listening to anyone.
One day he ended up at the center. He began attending open classes. He was one of the first boys to be admitted to the center shortly after the pandemic started. The boy was glad that he could live with us, but I must admit that it was not easy with him. During his rehabilitation, we had various problems with him, which were relatively more than with other children. Tarekegn has changed a lot over time. There was a year with us. In the end, it all turned out well and he went home. He lives with his family and continues school. I believe it will stay that way and he will never come back to the street.
Since our center for street children began to operate, God has helped many children with our hands. I believe our work makes sense even if we change the life of just one child. Meanwhile, I counted all the children we sent to school, providing them with the most necessary clothes, uniforms, exercise books and school supplies and for whom we provided full board or whose families we offered food and cleaning products every month. It turned out that there are exactly 30 of them. We changed the fate of 30 children! 30 children started or returned to formal education.
Overall, we helped more children. There were many more children who came to us, could eat a hot meal, wash themselves, wash their clothes and participate in activities. This is not the end, because our mission is still going on and getting more and more active. Many boys come to us and we continue to try our best to find the best solution for them so that they have a relatively happy childhood and future ahead of them. After all, God has beautiful plans for them … “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jr 29,11
This year I am enjoying a tremendous experience of “Transformation” here in Castel D’Azzano, Italy. The reason is, that I have the opportunity of accompanying the transformation of nature from winter to spring, to autumn and to summer. You cannot imagine how is in Europe the difference between Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.
The sight I had during the last winter, January- February, from my big window and balcony, was the sight of skeletons, because all the trees around, which are many, were naked like bones without flesh and skin. You could think of death creatures, of death trees. But after a while: New life came. Magnificent. In the garden, the death dark grass and bushes, started to show a striking diversity of all possible hue pigments of green. And it was marvellous to see the gently transformation of the trees from nakedness to the “multi-coloured bright sight” wrapped up in lovely flowers and leaves. The key word of our Movement for Social Transformation is wonderfully reflected in the nature.
Of course, transformation includes all aspects of nature, because, everything is in the process of change and of evolution. The word “social” brings owe to us, to acknowledge that what brings in Europe transformations which occur in nature, are the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Four parts of the year deeply different from one another. It is amazing how nature feels then. Each season has unique connotations. Spring: The season of the blossoming, new life, flowers all over and the full grown variety of colours and perfumes surpassing your smell capacity of enjoying creation. Beyond that the immaginario that many of these flowers will become sweet fruits. Summer is the season of the gradual ripening and maturing of everything. Very charming also how I caught sight of the herds of sheep looking for their pasture. Once I was in the middle of the herd, among them. Beautiful. Autumn is harvesting time, the leaves change colours which are also enchanting, and then fall down leaving a soft carpet on the soil. At that time all fruits are ripe. After that, comes the cold winter, snow and dew. Winter is the time for nature to resting, after harvesting time. It seems for nature to be in “life stop”, to be suffering only, but it is not so. There dwells its golden chance for its hidden intrinsic power to be regenerated for a new circle of life.
It is astonishing to realize how the contemplation of nature while accompanying the four different seasons, is a source of immense wisdom. It is important to transfer the seasons of nature, to the seasons of human life, to live them with delight, but also to assent to the inevitable painful transformations which do occur in our own lives. Without the ongoing changing of seasons nature should be truly death. The nature shows us, how we should be ready for changes and transformations, though at times full of mystery, hurting, painful and maybe sore, like during this Coronavirus time.
Now that we are near to the Celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, let us reflect and link transformations to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, the true “Transformer”, in our lives as Social Ministers, Social transformers, Social entrepreneurs.
The mystery of the event of transformations which occur in Jesus first and of most, because he became a human being and shared our human life, in many aspects from the conception in the womb of a woman, than in the life of the village and in the workshop of his father Joseph. And of course, his gradual human development whereby he like all of us went on. That was departing from his parents. By detaching himself from his village. So we do. In order to asset our own personal lives according to our own strength, our capacities, to our limits or potentialities. According to the Plan, God has for each one of us.
The beautiful for us is, to strongly believe that our lives are far more than a realization of a human project, all whose objectives are not only the personal good of each one of us, but first of all seen also as humanity as a whole, and of the cosmos as such. It is very important for us to have this very wide vision of all of us. Our life is never a private enterprise for the sake of the individual, but it has a community dimension and a cosmic dimension. It means that our own personal growth and holiness affects positively whatever exists because, none of us is an individual isolated from the others.
Each one of us has a big contribution to give to a cosmic plan, which boundaries and beauty will be partially discover only at the end of our personal life and globally perceived at the end of time when the cosmos will have the final connotation God the Father gives through the dynamism of the Holy Spirit when everything will be recapitulated in Christ at the Omega Point. Let us be aware of this Presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us be open to his action in us. He will be continuously transforming us, until through his light, love and action, we reach the stage of the world becoming truly the Kingdom of God our Father “Abba”.
I invite you cordially and respectfully to keep up to our mind-set, to the vision and mission we meant some time ago, and to build up our “Social Transformation Movement”. Born and blossoming with you in Africa, in Nairobi, it started to be spread to all Continents. I can see how from your riches, from your talents, from your creativity, from your culture you are exporting quality to the world. That is what I and Sister Teresita here now willingly call “The New Face of Africa”. Keep always the “team spirit”. “Togetherness” is the secret of your success: To be and act “like true brothers and sisters”, transforming society, each one and each “team” in the place and in the community in the area, in the country, in which everyone lives and works. Please, keep in touch, networking with each other and with me, with us. Thank you!
Golden Sequence: Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly ray of your light. Come, father of the poor, come, giver of gifts, come, light of hearts. Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation. In labour rest, in heat, temperateness, in tears, solace. Heal that which is wounded. O most blessed light, fill the inmost heart of your faithful.
“Come Holy Spirit, strengthen our new born “Movement for Social Transformation”, strengthen our hearts and minds”. “Give us your heavenly grace to never give up”.
I and Sister Teresita wholeheartedly support you. Greetings and blessings, fraternally yours in Christ.
Prof. Fr. Francesco Pierli MCCJ
P.S. The title of my “Book of the Founder” is “AFRICA: THE CRADLE OF SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION” One subtitle is “NOT NEGOTIABLE EVENT”.
The Center for Rural Innovation and Agroecological Development (Ciranda), offers theoretical and technical training in agroecology to 70 families in the city of Açailândia as an economic alternative to the region’s mining and agrobusiness chain, which is located right in the middle of the “Estrada de Ferro Carajás” (EFC) railroad. According to coordinator Xoán Couto, the Brazilian project is inspired by Laudato si’ because it follows the same path that unites faith and science in “response to the needs of communities, also taking into consideration traditional knowledge.”
Andressa Collet – Vatican City
The Ciranda is part of the cultural heritage of most Brazilian children. It is a song with a dance in a circle reminiscent of the wives of fishermen in the northeast of the country who sang while waiting for their husbands to return from the sea. It is a community dance, always awaiting “the other”, just like a project developed in the city of Açailândia, in the state of Maranhão, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon.
A development project since 2018, Ciranda – an acronym for the Center for Rural Innovation and Agroecological Development – has bet its efforts on agroecology as an economic alternative to the mining industry and agribusiness in the region, located right in the middle of the “Estrada de Ferro Carajás” (EFC) railroad, which connects the largest open-pit iron mine in the world, in Carajás, southeastern Pará, to the Port of Ponta da Madeira, in São Luís, Maranhão.
Integral ecology thus emerges as a concrete possibility so families do not have to depend only on mining, but are able to safeguard the local economy, generating income at home with less impact on the environment. Ciranda’s coordinator, Xoán Carlos Sanches Couto, a Combonian lay missionary, explains the relationship with our common home, which can be adapted to the reality of each person: “Ciranda promotes the right technologies for family farming and farmers. Here we test and apply technologies and forms of production that are appropriately adapted to the property size of farming families, their knowledge, the workforce they have among their families, and the environment we have in this region.”
Agroecology inspired by Laudato si’
Xoán is a Spanish agronomist who has been in Brazil for 20 years working with families in the Amazon region of Maranhão. In the beginning, he created the “Casa Família Rural,” a type of community agricultural school to help improve the lives and education of rural youth. Today, together with Ciranda, he runs two projects that help 70 families in the region with theoretical and technical training.
In the courses offered, the children of farmers learn to familiarize themselves with ways of growing agroecological crops with the possibility of producing them on their own properties. These are technologies suitable for family farming that, once learned in school, are passed on to families and communities offering an ongoing series of incentives not to leave the rural environment. This is one of the prime examples coming out of Brazil, an initiative that does not solve global problems, but confirms “that men and women are still capable of intervening positively” to help improve the environment (Pope Francis, Laudato si’, 58).
The idea of working in agroecology, says Xoán, “is very much inspired by the Laudato si’ Encyclical. It is a crossroads of science and faith, which seeks the best that science has discovered to explain the environmental crisis, to provide answers with faith, but also with a scientific foundation. The Ciranda Center also takes the same approach. We use scientific knowledge, we have partnerships with research institutes and universities, but at the same time our response is based on the needs of communities with respect to traditional knowledge as well.”
Xoán gives examples of the techniques taught, ranging from green building, a traditional form of construction widely practiced in the region with clay and tiles made of recycled materials, to biogas production and rainwater harvesting with cisterns. But poultry, fish and beekeeping are also practiced; pigs are raised outdoors and agroforestry systems are promoted through planting of wood and fruit trees, as well as annual crops that are the residents’ food staples, “such as corn, beans, cassava. All this is planted together in a form called polyculture, where there is no monoculture and one species supports the other, so you have a balanced environment: it is very unlikely that a pest or insect will attack and cause economic damage. So this is a way to take inspiration from nature that also has a scientific foundation.”
Ciranda’s challenges: from fires to agribusiness
Despite the positive outcomes, there are challenges, like the fires that come from neighboring properties. Xoán says that in all, they manage to save the permanent crops, but their other efforts in areas like ecological grazing and forest reserves are often severely damaged by the fires. This has been in the case in the last two years: “this is a challenge that makes us think about how to overcome this problem in the coming years by building forest barriers that are less susceptible to fire. Even so, the results are already promising: we see in the families an enthusiasm and willingness to continue working the land, knowing that this is a mission to provide food for humanity and this can be done while preserving our common home, without damaging the environment”.
Cooperation with nature is already very present in the lives of most farmers. Yet not everyone has this awareness, because agrobusiness is very present at the local level, “transforming economies, landscapes and mentalities.” As the Pope writes in Laudato si’ (54), “economic interests easily end up trumping the common good” and “any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions.”
Xoán is fully aware of how Ciranda is an experience that “profoundly contradicts the notions of the capitalist market, where those who have more and those who make more money are worth more.” For this reason, he explains, many times “families tend to be ridiculed or dismissed, by saying that their approach does not work and this cannot feed humanity. But we already have several research studies that show how, for example, one hectare of agroforestry, which is the method we work with – the agroforestry system, is more productive than one hectare of soy monoculture. This is not only in monetary terms, but also in ecological terms. So, dismantling this ‘money mentality’ is one of the challenges we have and will be working on in the coming years.”
*Photos and video produced before the last steps were taken to address the Covid-19 emergency
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