AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Comboni Missionaries: "We must strengthen an atmosphere of democracy and peace"

Saturday, 28 March 2020 human rights   democracy   peace  

Awasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Ethiopia is making great strides, but still experiencing severe economic and social difficulties". This was reported to Agenzia Fides by Father Pedro Pablo Hernandez, a Comboni missionary of Mexican origin who has been working in the Apostolic Vicariate of Awasa for twenty years. In the past two years, with regards to the political field, the African nation has made a great turning point thanks to the election of Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed in 2018. "The Prime Minister - explains Father Pedro - was greeted with enthusiasm by the population for his kind and open way of establishing relationships. It was not easy for him to bring forth his plans, both for the great objective difficulties and for the strong internal opposition, but the situation has significantly improved, especially in the field of human rights, freedom of press and the democratic system. The Country is slowly recovering its own identity", observes the religious.
Despite the progress made, difficulties persist. "Today there is still an atmosphere of uncertainty and social instability", explains Fr. Hernandez. Moreover, over time, tensions of an ethnic nature have increased due to frictions between the various religious communities. "As a Catholic Church - notes the Comboni priest - we try to carry out an interreligious dialogue with other confessions to try to build true and lasting peace". In this area, the Comboni missionaries have been present for 35 years in the mountains of southeastern Ethiopia, among the Guyi, a group belonging to the Oromo ethnic group, the most numerous race in southeastern Ethiopia. "Here we find the small mission of Killenso - reports the missionary - from here two other missions were born, Soddu Abala and Haroo Waato, which are constantly growing".
In 2008, the religious community of Killenso, in line with the Institute's guidelines, decided to promote pastoral care in Adoola, the most important city in the region, 35 kilometers from the mission, where the Catholic Church was almost non-existent. "The invitation from families from different places around the city to open new pastoral centers and the inadequate living conditions of most of the students - reports Father Pedro - led us to carry out the following projects: obtain land at the center of the city, create a training program for new catechists for the construction of new communities and build a public library".
In fact, the result of this pastoral work is the presence of 16 new Christian communities in the area. The construction of a church in 2016 is the material expression of the formation work. As for the field of education, a library has been opened which has over 4,000 books and can accommodate up to 120 students.
Even in the economic field, difficulties continue. Drought and inflation plague the Country. Food shortage is very serious and although encouraging signs of development can be seen, the gap between rich and poor continues to increase, especially in rural areas: about 30% of Ethiopians live in conditions of extreme poverty. "In the whole Vicariate - reports the Comboni Missionary - there are shortages of schools, hospitals, clinics. The population still depends on humanitarian aid. Catholic secretariats of all dioceses do commendable work to meet the needs of the population". Parliamentary elections will take place in Ethiopia in August 2020: "We must rebuild and strengthen a climate of democracy and peace - concludes Fr. Hernandez - working alongside and with people, so that they become more and more protagonist of their future".
According to the most recent national census, Christians in Ethiopia represent 62.8% of the total population, with the largest group of them among the Ethiopian Orthodox (43.5%), followed by Protestants (18.6%) and Catholics with just 0.7%. The remaining 33.9% are Muslim.(ES) (Agenzia Fides, 28/3/2020)