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October 10th, 2013:

Tiyende Pamodzi – Let’s Walk Together – Camminiamo Insieme

To listen, to talk, to meet “the others”, these are basica actions that help us to grow in mutual respect and solidarity. Koinonia, which started in Lusaka (Zambia) in 1982 , knows this well. Since then every year organized groups of young people – from Italy but also from other countries – have taken part in experiences that have given them direct knowledge of the human and social situation in Africa, living and sharing with the local community. Even if we had to face difficulties and did several mistakes we discovered that to build solidarity is an integral part of our journey as a community. Now Amani, the Italian NGO that for years organized trips to Zambia, has decided to offer to a group of young Zambians the possibility to experience the perspective of the traveler, inviting them to an educational trip that will begin in Turin on November 23 and, with several stops, will go to the South, to Matera, ending in Rome on December 15.

Other young men from Koinonia Kenya have visited Italy several times and the experience has been positive for all of them, as well as for the Italian families who hosted them. Of course they should prepare themselves well before leaving, as all real travelers do. It is significant that none of them, even among the older boys of the football team, has chosen to stay in Italy.

The trip will be an opportunity for the Italian friends to know the boys and live together an educational experience of cultural exchange, through shared family life, visits to museums and churches, meetings with schools and parishes and christian communities. When possible the Koinonia boys will present a Zambian traditional dance and drumming show. The Zambians boys will have the opportunity to meet with peers and to share their experience.

Why do Koinonia and Amani take such an important organizational commitment? Would not it be better to use the time and money to do other things?

“Other things” we have done and continue to do. Mthunzi, from where come the 16 young people who participate in the trip, it is a socio-educational project done in a Koinonia residential center created to accommodate street children. It is located about 15 km from the Zambian capital, in a rural area. For children is not only a place of welcome but represents a real opportunity to build up their own future. At Mthunzi children receive adequate education and support to their human and spiritual growth. This allows them to regain confidence in themselves and in the adult world, a world that has denied them the chance to live a happy childhood . A Mthunzi there are also agricultural activities, a computer school and tailoring project. There is also a medical dispensary, that over the years become an important reference point for the surrounding villages.

But this is not enough. The boys must be the protagonists of their human and religious formation, according to their needs, choices and commitments. They learn to open up to the world and to be responsible citizens. For this they have decided to travel to Italy with a message, condensed in the title of the show: Tiyende Pamodzi , or Let’s Walk Together.

The tragedy of Lampedusa, and some of the comments that followed, have strengthened in me in the belief that we must build solidarity. Even more fundamentally, we need to rebuild a sense of belonging to the same human family. I hope that the authors of some of the comments reported by the mass media have made them because they never really had the opportunity to meet “the others”. For a variety of circumstances they have lived in cages from where they have ever attempted to get out, because they feel safe in the cage. Without realizing that they are also prisoners.

For Christians, as are many of the boys of Koinonia and many of my friends, being christian is measured by the ability to create community, fellowship, communion. To transform the ideal of “love the others” into action, into commitment and service.

Don Milani, an Italian priest wrote extensely on social issues, said “If you claim the right to divide the world into Italian and foreigners, then I say to you that in your understanding I have no country.” Those who will have the opportunity to meet the Koinonia boys will also understand, if they are not already convinced, that we are all part of a larger homeland.

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