Community of Sant’Egidio – DREAM
2004 Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among Peoples
The Community of Sant’Egidio – whose name comes from an ancient monastery located in the Trastevere district of Rome – was born in 1968 from a group of Roman high school students who, interpreting the teachings of the Gospel with a vision of “service” to the poor and the needy, wanted to bring concrete help to whoever was on the fringes of society, alone and with no resources, in particular, in the most destitute areas on the outskirts of the capital city. Thus began the activities of the Community – which today numbers over 40.000 members and is continually increasing – towards abandoned or abused children, the homeless, the elderly who are ill or alone, immigrants and gypsies and aids victims. In 1986, the Community of Sant’Egidio was recognized by the Catholic Church as a public lay association.
The Community of Sant’Egidio moved outside Italian borders at the end of the Seventies, becoming involved worldwide through local communities with initiatives of assistance to the poor as well as the implementation of programmes of cooperation and humanitarian intervention. Since the mid-Eighties, besides its social activity, the Community of Sant’Egidio has worked for peace, encouraging ecumenism and dialogue among religions, organizing international meetings with representatives of different religions and with renowned figures from the world of politics and economics.
In Africa, a continent devastated by wars, poverty and disease, the Community of Sant’Egidio has intensified and diversified its humanitarian and welfare intervention. In Mozambique in particular, it has been involved in the creation – ever since the years of the civil war – of its centres, through which it provides important support to the growth and education of children, and offers assistance to the elderly, to the homeless and to prison inmates. It has also constructed a village, Chimundo, near Chibuto (province of Gaza), with sanitary facilities, a school and a health centre.
This humanitarian action has enabled the Community of Sant’Egidio to play a very active role that has in many ways been decisive, in the long, difficult negotiations that the United Nations and various governments were involved in, so as to open a dialogue between the different sides in the long, bloody civil war that has left Mozambique devastated for years. It is also thanks to the work of the Community of Sant’Egidio in mediation that, after a long, difficult phase of meetings between the different sides, with highs and lows of hope and disappointment, a peace agreement was signed in Rome on 4 October 1992. It was a hard-won peace, which came after a conflict that had lasted over two decades and had caused one and a half million deaths. In the last phase of the process, the Community of Sant’Egidio has also been successfully working to overcome the final difficulties. Peace has been maintained and is now stabilised. The experience of Mozambique is especially important at a time in which war seems to prevail over peace and the force of arms is opposed to the patience of negotiations.
When, with the signing of the General Peace Agreement in Rome that put an end to the war in Mozambique, people began to live again, to plan reconstruction and start once again to cultivate abandoned fields and organize the return of refugees from abroad, another enemy arrived: aids, a disease which led to economic, social and human decline, like the war had. The fourth cause of mortality in the world and first in Africa, with treatments that are at the present time very costly, aids is responsible for the new African tragedy, threatening the disappearance of a large part of the Africa of today and tomorrow, slaughtering infant and adult alike, decimating the professional class necessary for a truly new future, and contributing to the corrosion of the already precarious scholastic and health systems of the country. Malnutrition or other infectious diseases, like tuberculosis, have only increased susceptibility to infection since they weaken the immune system.
It is in this context that the Community of Sant’Egidio came up with an idea for a project to fight aids that would combine prevention and therapy, and that could become a model for the entire continent, which is considered the most important initiative at this time in Africa: the dream programme in Mozambique for the prevention, control and treatment of aids, a programme of health service and nutritional support open to collaboration with scientific research bodies, local and international non-government organizations, private associations and any type of religious association regardless of creed. dream is part of the programme of the Ministry of Health in Mozambique.
The main objectives of the dream programme’s interventions are the prevention of the transmission of the hiv virus from mother to child and through blood transfusions, as well as the creation of structural conditions to make the general introduction of antiretroviral therapy possible in the country. The dream programme, which is coming about in different regions of the country – Maputo in the south, Sofala in the centre and Nampula in the north – involves remodelling doctors’ consulting rooms in order to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infectious diseases and setting up mother-child centres. The programme was started in Maputo, in the Central Hospital, with the construction of the first molecular biology laboratory – it began operating in the first months of 2002 – and was followed by a second molecular biology laboratory inaugurated at Beira at the end of October 2002. In May 2003 a completely remodelled and thoroughly equipped mother-child centre of the dream programme was inaugurated at Matola 2, a suburb of Maputo.
Thus, since March 2002, the dream programme conceived by the Community of Sant’Egidio allows aids victims and hiv-positive pregnant women in Mozambique to have access to free treatments. This entirely new approach is characterized by western standards of diagnosis and therapy and by effective organizational and operative models that work despite the conditions of structural weakness that are typical of the system of health and hygiene in the country.
From March 2002 to June 2004, thanks to the use of antiretroviral drugs, 609 children born to hiv-positive mothers have been saved from aids, while 10.490 people have been subject to screening and diagnostic testing and 6.439 hiv-positive people have been guaranteed assistance and treatment.
The initial results of the dream programme in Mozambique were first presented at the X Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (croi) in Boston in February 2003, and they were updated this year at the XI croi Conference held in San Francisco. These results are more than encouraging: the model works, mortality has been lowered, the quality of life of the patients has considerably improved, the viral load has been significantly lowered. It is above all in the high rate of adherence to therapy that these results are confirmed, since this aspect is considered a risk for this type of initiative in Third World countries like Mozambique.
For those who give life to the activity of the Community of Sant’Egidio, the value of the person and of each life is central. They discuss all the possible alternatives for those who are not yet infected, but also think of the 34 million hiv-positive lives or aids victims, and listen to the silent appeal from the sick people of so many African countries, of common men and women, of young people and of many children. The Community of Sant’Egidio is involved in extending the dream programme to Angola, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Malawi, South Africa and Swaziland.
In 1973, the centre of the Community of Sant’Egidio was in the Roman church of Sant’Egidio, from which it took its name. It was born in Rome in 1968 through the initiatives of a young man, Andrea Riccardi, who was under twenty at the time and is now professor at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre. He started by bringing together a group of high school students like himself to listen to the Gospels and put their message into practice in the little church.
The little group immediately started to go out into the outskirts of Rome, among the shacks surrounding Rome where many poor people lived in those years, and there they started an after-school programme (then called the “Scuola popolare”, or the “People’s school”, and now the “Scuola della pace”, or the “School of peace” in many parts of the world) for children.
Since then, the community has grown a great deal, and has now spread to 75 countries throughout the world. The number of its members is also constantly rising. Today there are over 40.000 members, but it is very difficult to calculate this number when so many others are reached by the different service activities of the community, and so many lend important, steady collaboration in providing services to the world’s poorest people and in the other activities carried out by Sant’Egidio, but without being part of it in the strict sense of the term.
dream, a programme to fight hiv infection and malnutrition in Mozambique, was conceived and carried out by the Community of Sant’Egidio through an Italian and European staff with different levels of professional qualifications and experience. The programme, which avails itself of technical and scientific consulting from national and international public and private research organizations, began operating in Mozambique in August 2001 [Dream. Drug Resource Enhancement against aids and Malnutrition. Curare l’aids in Africa. Un modello per l’introduzione del trattamento antiretrovirale dell’infezione da hiv nei sistemi sanitari di paesi a risorse limitate, Leonardo International (Collana “I libri di Sant’Egidio”) 2003].
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Dove mangiare, dormire, lavarsi, XV edizione, 2004
– A. Riccardi – M. Marazziti, Eurafrica. Quello che non si dice sull’immigrazione. Quello che si potrebbe dire sull’Europa, Leonardo International, Milano 2004
– dream. Drug Resource Enhancement against aids and Malnutrition. Curare l’aids in Africa. Un modello per l’introduzione del trattamento antiretrovirale dell’infezione da hiv nei sistemi sanitari di paesi a risorse limitate, 111 pp., ill. (cur. Comunità di Sant’Egidio), Leonardo International (Collana “I libri di Sant’Egidio”) 2003
– Andrea Riccardi, Sant’Egidio, L’Évangile au-delà des frontières, Entretiens avec Dominique Chivot, Bayard Editions, Paris 2001
– Communauté de Sant’Egidio: Pèlerins au cœur de Rome. Un itinéraire de Trastevere, Guerini e Associati, Milano 2000; Peregrinos en el corazón de Roma. Un itinerario por Trastevere, Guerini e Associati, Milano 2000; Pilgrims in the Heart of Rome. A Journey through Trastevere, Guerini e Associati, Milano 2000; Pellegrini nel cuore di Roma. Un itinerario a Trastevere, Guerini e Associati, Milano 2000
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio: Como vai a saùde?, Guerini, Milano 1999; Comment va la santé?, Leonardo International, Milano 2004; ¿Como va la salud?, Leonardo International, Milano 2004; How’s your health?, Leonardo International, Milano 2004
– Angelo Montonati, Il sapore dell’utopia. La Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Monti, Saronno 1999
– Non uccidere. Perché è necessario abolire la pena di morte, a cura di M. Marazziti, Guerini e Associati, Milano 1998; No matarás. Porqué es necesario abolir la pena de muerte, ed. Peninsula, Barcelona 2001
– H. Oschwald, Bibel, Mystik und Politik. Die Gemeinschaft Sant’Egidio, Herder, Freiburg 1998
– R. Morozzo della Rocca, Mozambique de la guerre à la paix, Harmattan, Paris 1997; Mozambico, una pace per l’Africa, Leonardo International, Milano 2002; Mozambique: Achieving Peace in Africa, Georgetown University, Washington 2003; Mozambique: Una paz para Africa, Icaria Editorial, Barcelona 2003; Mosambik, Frieden schaffen in Afrika, Echter Verlag, Würzburg 2003
– Andrea Riccardi, Sant’Egidio Rome et le monde. Entretiens avec Jean Dominique Durand et Régis Ladous, Beauchesne, Paris 1996; Sant’Egidio Roma e il mondo. Colloquio con J.D. Durand e R. Ladous. Prefazione di Carlo Maria Martini, San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 1997; Sant’Egidio, Roma si Lumea. Convorbiri cu J.D. Durand si R. Ladous, Editura Fundatiei Culturale Române, Bucuresti 1998; San Egidio Roma y el mundo. Coloquio con J.D. Durand y R. Ladous, Ciudad Nueva, Madrid 1998; Sant’Egidio Rom und die Welt. Gespräch mit J.D. Durand und R. Ladous, Eos Verlag Erzabtei, St. Ottilien 1998; Vrede is mogelijk. De Sint-Egidiusgemeenschap, Rome en de wereld, Uitgeverij Pelckmans Kapellen, 1998; Sant’Egidio Rome and the world. A. Riccardi in conversations with J.D. Durand and R. Ladous, St. Paulus, London 1999; Santo Egidio Roma e o Mundo, Círculo de Leitores, Lisboa 1999; San Egidio, Roma y el mundo, Ciudad Nueva, Madrid 2001
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Il dialogo non finisce, Morcelliana, Brescia 1994
– R. Morozzo della Rocca, Mozambico dalla guerra alla pace. Storia di una mediazione insolita, San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 1994; Vom Krieg zum Frieden. Mosambik: Geschichte einer ungewöhnlichen Vermittlung, Verlag Dienste in Übersee, Hamburg 1997
– Gino Battaglia, La pentola di rame. Frammenti di vita del mondo dei nomadi, Melusina, Roma 1993
– Mario Marazziti, Uno straordinario vivere. Storie di aids solidarietà e speranze, Piemme, Casale Monferrato 1993
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, L’ospite inatteso, Morcelliana, Brescia 1993
– Marco Pagani, Piergiacomo Baroni, La vita oltre il muro. Storie e problemi di anziani in istituto, Rosenberg & Sellier, Torino 1992
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Religioni in dialogo per la pace, Morcelliana, Brescia 1991
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Cristianesimo e Islam. L’amicizia possibile, Morcelliana, Brescia 1990
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Immigrazione razzismo e futuro, Padova 1990
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Oltre il mito. Gli stranieri in Italia, Morcelliana, Brescia 1990
– Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Stranieri nostri fratelli. Verso una società multirazziale, Morcelliana, Brescia 1989
– Cooperativa “Cultura Popolare”, Anziani scomodi. Una proposta per l’assistenza domiciliare, Giuffrè, Milano 1984
list of International Meetings “Peoples and Religions”
– Milano 2004: Religioni e culture: il coraggio di un nuovo umanesimo (Religions and Cultures: the Courage to forge a New Spiritual Humanism)
– Aachen 2003: Tra guerra e pace: religioni e culture s’incontrano (War and Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue)
– Palermo 2002: Religioni e culture tra conflitto e dialogo (Faiths and Cultures within Conflict and Dialogue)
– Barcellona 2001: Le frontiere del dialogo: religioni e civiltà nel nuovo secolo (On the Frontiers of Dialogue: Religions and Civilizations in the New Century)
– Lisbona 2000: Oceani di pace. Religioni e culture in dialogo (Oceans of Peace. Religions and Cultures in Dialogue)
– Genova 1999: Chiese sorelle. Popoli fratelli (Churches as Sisters. Peoples as Brothers. Christians Gather on the Threshold of the Third Millennium)
– Bucarest 1998: Pace è il nome di Dio. Dio, l’Uomo, i Popoli (Peace is the name of God. God. Humankind. Peoples)
– Padova-Venezia 1997: Conflitto o incontro: religioni e culture a un bivio (Conflict or Encounter Religions and Cultures at a Crossroad)
– Roma 1996: La pace è il nome di Dio (Peace is the name of God)
– Firenze 1995: Terre e cieli di pace (Heavens and Earths of Peace)
– Assisi 1994: Amici di Dio. Testimoni di pace (Friends of God, Witness of Peace)
– Milano 1993: Terra degli uomini, invocazioni a Dio (Earth of People, Invocations to God)
– Bruxelles 1992: L’Europa, le religioni e la pace (Europe, Religions and Peace)
– Malta 1991: Le religioni per un mare di pace (Religions for a Sea of Peace)
– Bari 1990: Un mare di pace tra Oriente e Occidente (From East to West a Sea of Peace)
– Varsavia 1989: Mai più la guerra! (War never again!)
– Roma 1988: Uomini di preghiera in cerca di pace (People of Prayer in Search of Peace)
– Roma 1987: La preghiera alla radice della pace (Prayer as a Source of Peace).