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Egypt – Volunteer experience of young people in Central Italy

04 September 2019

(ANS - Cairo) - The Salesian oratory of Cairo-Zeitun is one of the two works of the spiritual Sons of Don Bosco in the capital of Egypt. For several years, as part of the collaboration between the Circumscription of Central Italy and the Salesians of Egypt, it has welcomed young Italian volunteers who have put themselves at the service of the local children during the summer. It is precisely these volunteers who can testify today: "the oratory of Zeitun fully embodies the phrase of Don Bosco: it is a home that welcomes, a parish that evangelizes and a school that leads to life."

It is home because it welcomes children from all over Cairo, both Egyptians and South Sudanese, without distinction. This makes this work special, especially in a city where the South Sudanese are discriminated against and not accepted. At the "Don Bosco", they play together: Sudanese and Egyptians in the same courtyard. Two cultures in one oratory. Dancing together, listening to Sudanese and Egyptian music, leaving the various games to dance that song of the moment that makes the courtyard explode with joy ... It makes one understand that the sharing of small gestures breaks any cultural barrier.

It is a parish, because one breathes an air of faith. During the week, there are moments for catechism; they are divided into age groups and between Sudanese and Egyptians, due only to the lack of space. Even with the church benches full, the children, even the youngest, remain silent and respectful of the moment; participation in prayers indeed shows how important and participatory faith is. Faith that does not occur only in moments of joy, but is made external, or expressed, especially in moments of pain and difficulty. Knowing how to say in suffering: "Lord, thy will be done" means to have understood that one's cross is brought together and with the Lord and not alone, by oneself.

It is school because in this oasis in the desert children learn to be loved, to respect each other in their differences; they learn about care of and for the environment and of themselves, to become responsible by accepting small tasks, to become "good Christians and upright citizens."

"We volunteers," say the young Italians, "immediately felt welcomed: the oratory became our home. Every gesture received, from a handshake to a smile, have been helpful in creating bonds with every young person met. Zeitun was a parish for us because we felt the presence of the Lord in every heart that opened up to us. It was a school, because in the face of different languages, we learned to understand each other by speaking the language of the heart."

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