Madagascar: being a community

Publish date 01-10-2021

by Mauro Palombo

Something which is certainly not new, three years ago our friend Fr Renato Rosso started another mission experience among those far away, in a particular context: that of the nomads of the Bara people, in Madagascar.

Born from a meeting in the Holy Land with a Malagasy Franciscan father, Don Renato has made available to you all his vast experience of presence alongside the nomads of the world. And this novelty is already bearing fruit.
The mission is centered in the parish of Manapa, 1.650m, diocese of Antsirabe.
The Franciscan fathers Pascal and Felix serve a community of over 30,000 Bara people, scattered over a vast territory.

Among them, in a long valley separated from the rest of the world by high mountains, several hours' walk from where the road stops, live several hundred Bara nomadic shepherds, according to a millenary style, but in very harsh conditions.

A proposal for integral human development was born quickly towards them, which together with Father Felix avails itself of a team of a catechist, a nurse, an agronomist and a teacher, who spend periods in the remote valley. Proposal very well received, with participation. Thus an embryo of a health program is developed, starting with giving the most elementary indications and doing hygienic prevention to try to avoid tragedies, especially in the case of pregnancy and childbirth. In the meantime, the school is the leader. To begin immediately, meeting a few hours during the day in the boss's house; and in the meantime classrooms were built, learning how to produce the necessary bricks in an open-air furnace. The children can thus also stop in the village and attend it, even when their parents move to the zebu pasture.

School, however simple, is always the key to going further; in the case, beyond the routine of life of nomadic shepherds who may not have to work very hard to live, but end up being satisfied only with the not much sustenance that comes from it, without transforming it, and evolving with creativity into greater variety and quantity of food.

The bred zebus themselves are not consumed because it is their number that counts as an element of prestige and authority.
Starting from these assumptions, the action of the agronomist is important, who, after a careful evaluation, is carrying out the reclamation of fertile soils rich in water, previously only immense reeds; now it is starting to produce rice in good quantity, and vegetables, for a richer diet.

Regarding the role of the catechist, the Franciscan fathers have developed their own concept. «Evangelization and education go together; the catechists take care of evangelization while the teachers are involved in the school. There is no development for the illiterate: education is the key to all good. Evangelization is therefore the new name for lasting development ”.

These catechists, who undergo an intense formation, are the pillars of the pastoral life of the Church. The project now extends to the 30,000 who live scattered throughout the vast territory of the parish. In thirty small towns a small, very simple church and a school are being prepared; thirty schools with 1,250 students already: a dream come true.
While the health program is starting up throughout the territory, which is all the more important today.
Faith goes beyond cultures; and, among other things, it educates everyone to pass from I to us, developing a mentality in which we take care of each other. Community is built.

Like Sermig, we supported the creation and organization of the project; given the first notable results, the challenge now is to give it continuity, supporting this presence alongside the poor, which only asks for the strictly necessary resources.

If you want to help us
Sermig Re.Te. Association for the development
IBAN: IT29 P030 6909 6061 0000 0001 481 Banca Intesa SanPaolo

Mauro Palombo
NP May 2021

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