CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Salesian missionaries celebrate 25 years of providing support and assistance to those in need
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries are celebrating their 25-year anniversary providing support to those in need in Bangui, Central African Republic. Starting in 1994 with their first center in Damala, the Salesian mission has had to face the many difficulties that have impacted the country over the years. The Salesian center in Damala and another in Galabadja have offered refuge, peace and safety during this time.
Since violence initially broke out in December 2012 between Séléka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militia groups more than 6,000 people have died and more than 650,000 were internally displaced with more than 232,000 in the capital city of Bangui alone. Another 300,000 had fled across the borders as refugees. In 2015, peace had begun to return to the country but smaller outbreaks of violence continue. Small markets are opened, taxi service is available and residents have begun to move back and forth safely between locations.
During the height of the conflict, the Salesian center in Galabadja had been host to 20,000 displaced people and the one in Damala had taken in an estimated 50,000. Many arrived at the Salesian centers injured and in desperate need of medical attention. While the situation has improved and many have left the shelter of Salesian centers, the situation remains precarious. Those still internally displaced are homeless and have no other source of shelter and food other than what’s provided at the centers.
The Salesian center in Damala has an orphanage, youth center, professional center and high school. At the center in Galabadja, Salesian missionaries offer primary and secondary education along with a college and professional training program. A youth center and medical clinic are also available.
The Salesian-run Spaces for Peace program at both the Damala and Galabadja centers provides one meal a day to more than 1,500 students during their school day, helps 700 students with school supplies and scholarships and assists 120 older youth gain the skills necessary to find and retain employment.
“Salesian missionaries have been working to provide educational and support services to youth in need as well as to those who were internally displaced by war,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Educational and social development programs help youth regain a sense of normalcy while allowing them to move past the violence and focus on more productive activities.”
For the anniversary celebration, Salesian missionaries held a Catholic Mass at the St. John parish in Galabadja during which the Salesian Merci Mbacho made his Perpetual Profession and the Salesians Paterne Modekpo and Lévy-Brad Issené were ordained deacon and priest respectively.
The celebration was presided over by Msgr. Nestor Désiré Nongo Azagbia, bishop of Bossangoa, in the presence of Salesian Father Alphonse Owoudou, superior of the Vice Province of Equatorial Tropical Africa.
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