Muted joy amid Covid
For decades, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the lay social movement of the Catholic Church, has been organising Christmas lunch where its main guests have been the elderly, street-connected children and children from underprivileged families.
The movement hosted its first Christmas lunch in 1982 in Rome, Italy, and the banquet has eventually become a worldwide feast where the underprivileged and the forsaken in society are specially invited to partake of sumptuous meals.
In 2018, about 240,000 people gathered for the Christmas lunch in more than 600 cities and 78 countries of the world where food was served and gifts were given to the elderly, children, those with disabilities, prisoners, patients and those on the streets.
Community of Sant’Egidio member responsible for Area 25 in Lilongwe Eddah Mtalika said, in Malawi, the movement has reached out to thousands of children on the streets, the elderly and inmates with food and non-food items.
“Christmas lunch provides a rare opportunity to members of the movement and our guests to interact and share the love of God. Through this lunch, we assure the elderly, street connected children and children from underprivileged families of God’s care and faithfulness,” Mtalika said.
She, however, lamented that the restrictions that government announced after the ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 dampened their planned 2020 feast.
Although the implementation of the measures was put on hold following a court order some musicians obtained, the movement chose to play by the book to avoid exposing their guests to the disease.
“Community of Sant’Egidio thought it wise not to gather all people in one place due to Covid-19 in order to protect the people from the disease. So, what we have done is that, for four days, we will be delivering food and non-food items in the homes of targeted people,” Mtalika said.
And from December 24 to 28, the movement delivered food items and gifts to homes of 758 elderly persons and street-connected children from Area 25, Mgona and Kasengele townships.
Community of Sant’Egidio’s School of Peace and Street Kids officer Desmond Numero said at least 50 street-connected children were reached with items to support their livelihood during and after the Christmas season.
Numero said, among other items, the movement delivered bags of maize flour, which will last some days.
Elizabeth Mkwichi, 73, said she was amazed by the love and support shown to her by the movement.
Mkwichi said, considering that 2020 was a difficult year on all fronts, she never expected that ‘these youths would follow me to my home with food items and gifts’.
On the other hand, the movement’s officer responsible for central region prisons Vincent Mfune asked juvenile inmates at Kachere Prison to utilise their time behind the bars to mend their ways.
Mfune said this after donating K500,000 worth of food and non-food items to the correctional facility on Christmas Eve.
“This is not the first time for us to come here. We have been with them during the whole period the country was grappling with Covid-19. We distributed masks, hand-washing buckets and soap,” he said.
“This year’s Christmas is a bit different from what we have been doing in previous years when we would come here, prepare our meals and enjoy it together with the inmates,” Mfune added.
Kachere Prison Officer-in-Charge Chuck Dzikolidaya said faith movements have a critical role to play in transforming lives of the offenders.
Dzikolidaya therefore hailed Community of Sant’Egidio for offering social and spiritual support to the correctional facilities.