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Field Visit Report on Summer Feeding Project to 34 Parishes in Adigrat Eparchy, Ethiopia

ne of the events that made the youth festival special was participation of the Eritrean Refugees from four camps in Shire zone namely: Hitsatse, Shimelbaha, Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush. 45 representative Catholic refugee faithful and one refugee Catholic priest participated in the festival, representing thousands of Catholic refugees in the camps. Abba Giday Alema, Parish Priest of Shire Assumption of Mary parish and Chaplain for the Refugees, told CNEWA representative that life in the camps is very challenging; many youth lost what they had. In the campus almost all the youth have no parents. Some lost their parents in the border war; others left them behind in their home country. So they have psychological trauma and need pastoral assistance. Besides providing regular pastoral services in the camps, the chaplain decided to bring the representatives to the festival, believing that the festival events would help them to spread hope in their hearts, which in turn would contribute to partly heal their psychological trauma.

Abba Geday Alema was absolutely right: the refugees seemed completely at home, relaxed and happy. They were given equal opportunities to present what they prepared for the festival, including dramas, poems and spiritual songs. They also participated in a biblical question and answer competition; even the winner of this competition was a refugee and received the first prize. The event was really a healing instrument for them.

Other participants of the festival deeply expressed their happiness on the presence of the refugees, who once were free people like them. One of the participants read a poem about refugees:

“You lost or left behind your parents; you are separated from your brothers and sisters; you are confined in a very poor shelters and tents; you lost all that you had. But you are left with one precious thing that tied you and us — our faith, our Catholic faith unites us always. Wherever we go, wherever we live, we are one in Christ. We understand and share your pain, the pain of loneliness, the pain of frustration and the pain of desperation. But believe us: you are our brothers and sisters; we are always by your side because we are bound together with the blood of Christ.”

At this moment everyone in the hall was emotionally moved and wiping away tears. A sense of fraternity and love for one another has reached its climax.

Mr. Samuel Yohannes, originally from Barentu Diocese in Eritrea and now living in Shimelbaha Refugee Camp, was asked about his days at the Adigrat Youth Festival. He said, “We, all the representatives of the refugees, are filled with incredible happiness for being participants at this festival; we have learned many things. We made friends and we felt as if we are with our parents, brothers and sisters. I am very grateful to those who supported and organized this festival.” Mr. Samuel has lived for seven years in the camp and he is not sure how long he will be in the camp.

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