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8/3/2016 - Yemen - Testimony of heroic commitment in support of the people

(ANS - Aden) - "Our stay in the places marked by division and poverty bears witness to faith in the Christian message." So wrote Fr Francesco Cereda, Vicar of the Rector Major, in explaining the meaning of the Salesian presence in Yemen. Like that of the Missionaries of Charity, the Salesian presence can only be understood in view of a service of mercy to God and to their brothers in need.

Salesians and Missionaries of Charity have always co-operated closely in the country - given that they are the only two religious congregations in the country. In 1973, when she accepted the invitation of the then government of North Yemen to open a home for the disabled in the country, Mother Teresa insisted that there must also be priests. This became possible with the help of the Salesians from Bangalore, India.

When the Salesians arrived there in 1987, while Bishop Giovanni Bernardo Gremoli, OFM Cap., was Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, they found that all the existing churches had fallen into alien hands. Thanks to their own efforts and the good will of some government officials, despite threats, they managed to recover three of them.

For missionaries, life in Yemen has never been easy or free from threats and problems. In 1998 a lone assailant killed three Missionaries of Charity – two Indians and a Filipino - in Hodeidah.

The Salesians and the Missionaries of Charity who spend their life of dedication to God and to their brothers in Yemen are fully aware of the difficulties and dangers. In an overwhelmingly Islamic country, religious men and women take care of the small Catholic communities present there, made up entirely of migrants from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka, and offer humanitarian services to the entire population.

Events related to the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011 and the subsequent rebellion against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, served to transform an already difficult situation into real chaos. The ensuing civil war, which began in March 2015, caused - according to UN data - nearly 6,000 victims (of whom half were civilians) and as many wounded civilians, and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. It also led, among other things, to the closure of the Indian embassy and the repatriation of three of the five Salesians then present.  

Published 08/03/2016

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