AFRICA/SOMALIA - Annalena Tonelli: Somali Church remembers the martyr on the 20th anniversary of her murder

Thursday, 5 October 2023

Djibouti ( Fides News Agency) - "I chose to be for others: the poor, the suffering, the abandoned, the unloved, which I was as a child and so I have been and I trust to continue until the end of my life. I wanted to follow only Jesus Christ. Nothing else interested me so strongly: Him and the poor in Him. For Him I made a choice of radical poverty." This is how Annalena Tonelli, born in Forli in 1943, recounted her choice as a lay missionary among the poor of Africa, where she had landed in 1969. On the 20th anniversary of the death of Annalena Tonelli, the lay volunteer who was killed by two gunmen on October 5, 2003 at the health facility she directed and founded in Boroma, Somaliland, in northern Somalia, there are many commemorative initiatives. "The Church in Somalia remembers her today, October 5, and with a special celebration to be held on Sunday, October 8," - writes Father Giorgio Bertin, Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu and Bishop of Djibouti, to Fides Agency. "I will be in Mogadishu on Sunday to remember Annalena at the invitation of General Fulvio Poli, from Romagna like her, who heads the European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia), the military mission launched on April 10, 2010 because of the unstable situation in the country."
Testimonies and prayer meetings have been taking place for months to remember the Italian volunteer who had dedicated her life to the health care and human promotion of Somali populations, specifically for 33 years she had been assisting those suffering from tuberculosis.
"Last year I was also in Forlì, Annalena's hometown," Bertin recalls, "where this evening there will be a missionary vigil in the cathedral, 'Burning Hearts, Walking Feet,' presided over by Cardinal Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, together with Bishop Livio Corazza, delegate of the Emilia-Romagna Bishops' Conference for missionary cooperation among the Churches."
We recall that Tonelli was shot in the back of the head at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists moved by hostility toward her work.
After graduating in law, in 1969 she left as a volunteer for Wajir, Kenya, where she started the "Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled," a rehabilitation and treatment center for the terminally ill, disabled and tuberculosis patients. Because of her denunciation of the Kenyan army's violent repression of Somali populations in the area, Annalena was forced to leave the country, and in 1987 she arrived in Somalia, where she initiated important programs for women, against infibulation, and the treatment of blindness and tuberculosis.
(AP) (Fides News Agency 5/10/2023)