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Trip to Ethiopia

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In March 2017, Rosella Graziola, member of the Association, went to Robe, Ethiopia.


Rosella Graziola, when was the idea of ​​this journey born?
About a year ago, when we knew that Don Andrea Toniolo, Head of the National Service for the Higher Studies of Theology and Religious Sciences of the CEI (Italian Bishops' Conference), had been in Robe's Apostolic Prefecture to meet his dear friend and former bishop of Padua Antonio Matiazzo, who is there as a missionary.

Have you been to the Apostolic Prefecture of Robe?
Yes. The Prefecture, set up five years ago, is dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who personally in 1977 brought the first religious people to Robe. The prefect is Angelo Antolini, originally from Fermo, a 35-year missionary in Ethiopia (23 years in Volaita, 5 in the diocese of Meki, then Robe). Here, besides the prefect's house, there is a church, a school, a kindergarten and a hospital for neuropsychiatric diseases (the only one in Ethiopia).
The prefecture is area of ​​early evangelization, the population is almost totally Muslim. All homes of the missionaries and the schools have a vegetable garden. Don Angelo, in fact, is a farmer's son, and over the years he has tried to cultivate a bit of everything and taught it to others as well.

What does it mean to be missionaries nowadays?
I was asked and I was told that Christians must be like salt. Salt that melts (dies) to give flavor to other lives that have never known Christ. More work is done than the number of people converted and the prefecture is witness to this: full freedom of choice, without taxation. I can add that it depends on the missionary ... even in Ethiopia the testimonies are faceted, as is mankind.

Are there other missionary centers?
Yes and they are at considerable and challenging distances. The principal centers, where Robe's religious also work, are:
Kofole: a Catholic center with school, kindergarten and sports center. There are the former bishop of Padua Antonio Mattiazzo, between Bernardo and Father Matteo. Here, a local cheese dairy project has been activated (in Ethiopia the cheese is not known, milk is transformed into butter or fermented creams). A home for young mothers is under construction and there is an extension of the school.
Adola: a center with a family home with 9 boys (12-14 years old) where there is Don Giuseppe Guanella fidei donum of Anagni and perhaps Colombian nuns will arrive.
Kokossa: rural center followed by bishop emeritus Antonio. In Goba there is a center run by the nuns of Mother Teresa of Calcutta who help 300 people of all ages with physical and mental disabilities.

What is the farthest missionary center?
Dallo Manna, which can be reached by crossing a plateau at 4000 meters of altitude, then going down to 1100 meters. Here Don Angelo's work is directed at school and agricultural projects: in a land (about 3 hectares) they are cultivating moringas, carrubbo, manioc, etc ... which are then distributed to the population and constitute an integration to the food. The project is funded by GMA (Africa Missions Group) non-profit organization of Montagnana (Padua).

Are there micro-credit projects?
Yes. For example, in Dallo Manna, in February 2017, twenty-five women were selected in order to benefit from a 2000 Birr loan (23 Birrs are 1 euro). Some of them had few goats and now they have 14, some others started small businesses. Out of twenty-five women, three did not return the initial capital.

Who supports Don Angelo in the various projects?
Don Angel uses local lay people (both catechists and collaborators for administrative procedures, project submission, construction, etc.). The important thing is to create a network and get a 'good name' so that the community accepts these 'strangers' and projects can involve people who want to help. A philosophy very different from the large projects funded by international cooperation that are often dropped from above and do not actively involve the population.

Which words had a strong impact on you?
I bring with me the words of Don Angelo, who has always defended the rights of the poor: "No one is interested in them, Pope Francis often calls to take responsibility for the poor, whereas these people only annoy, as well as those who help them and wants them to emancipate themselves from their condition. But where is a world of social injustice going? Justice is the basis of peace, St. Augustine said. In which direction are we going? Do we have to wait for a new revolutionary assault to the ovens? "

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