AFRICA/MADAGASCAR - Education and evangelization: the missionary presence in the Southwest of the country

Monday, 29 March 2021 missionaries   orders   mission   evangelization  

Ankililoaka (Agenzia Fides) - In Ankililoaka, in the southwest of Madagascar, the Salesian mission is an important point of reference for the local population, who are very poor. Currently, 4 brothers are dedicated to offering them hospitality, medical assistance, education, but above all help and hope. One of them, Fr. Giovanni Corselli, a missionary in the country for almost 40 years, tells Fides how his life changed when in September 2019 he arrived in the missionary district of Ankililoaka, precisely where the Salesian work with the current Bishop of Moramanga, Mgr. Rosario Vella, back in September 1981.
"After always being in Brousse, in the villages, in the countryside - writes Fr. Corselli - at the age of 76 the superiors appointed me director here in Ankililoaka. It is important for us to be close to people, always. In our community we strive to carry out a work of evangelization and human promotion, trying to educate young people and the population to work together, help each other, stimulating them to reflection and the search for their autonomy. The main problem, if not the only one, - continues the missionary - is that of water, which, unfortunately, in recent years we have seen a notable decrease. The rains have decreased considerably and for an agricultural population that expects everything from the rains it is problematic to make ends meet. This year it hardly rained. In its social structure, the population preserves many characteristics of village life. Most of the people have maintained the traditions of their ancestors and ancestral cults with taboos, traditional beliefs and the presence of witches who guide the lives of the people. To this is added the Coronavirus pandemic that continues to rage and that has increased the restrictions that for people who live with great difficulty become unbearable".
"Of course - explains Fr. Giovanni - in this context, the last thing parents think about is the education of their children, indeed they do not even think about it, as their attention is focused on the most essential things.
Despite the presence and use of social media, the population is not very open to the outside world. This creates a lot of difficulties for education and evangelization, our main objectives. That is why we try to get children to study, educate their parents and, indirectly, direct them to profitable activities of various kinds so that they are autonomous. In Ankililoaka we have 14 primary schools in the villages with a school population of 2,599 pupils and a large middle school and high school with about 750 pupils. In addition, the Trinitarian Sisters of Valenza, who work with us, run a dispensary and an primary and nursery school with about 700 students".
"Wherever I have worked - concludes the missionary - both in Tulear in the field of parish activities and neighborhood animation, vocational school, women's promotion, elementary school for recovery, as in Benaneviky, a missionary district of first evangelization, very extensive and with great difficulties of connection, elementary schools in the villages, construction of wells, I have been able to verify that we are a point of reference for the people and that we must help them, encourage them, support them so that little by little, it reaches a sufficient degree of autonomy, even if the state does nothing for the moment and the people do not trust state structures. We do not get discouraged and we entrust ourselves to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary Help of Christians and even if progress is very slow and many times it seems that we are going backwards, we continue to fight and encourage the population". (GC/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 29/3/2021)