“Don’t let hope die.” Interview with Fr Nicholas Ciarapica on the future of the youth of Liberia after Ebola.

By Andrés Felipe Loaiza, SDB

Don't let hope dieThe Salesians have seen that, despite the many difficulties, only dedication and love can defeat Ebola and conquer death, even if loved ones have died.” This is what Fr Nicola Ciarapica said in an interview with ANS. He is in Rome these days for the eighth race of the Saints, which supports the Foundation DON BOSCO IN THE WORLD project for Ebola Orphans to ensure the future of young people in Liberia after Ebola.

How do you see the future for the youth of Liberia?

The future was not so bright before. There were few opportunities of finding decent work, to have a salary to start a family and live a dignified life. The future remains uncertain and worrying. They need a sense of initiative. They need to be less passive in their way of life. There is a need for basic training, with some professional qualifications and a need to create more employment opportunities. All this is needed if they are to avoid being blocked by the situation.

How will the DON BOSCO IN THE WORLD Foundation project for Ebola Orphans help the young people of Liberia?

It helps us because it gets people involved. Many will be invited to work together, to accompany the children and the youth of the mission. We want to create, from many streams, a river of water to stem the emergency and to ensure food, education and access to healthcare for those who have lost parents or guardians through Ebola. We also want to help the children of single mothers. We want to help the young people who are most in need and prepare them for life.

How is it possible to live the Salesian charism in these emergency situations?

The Salesians in Liberia and Sierra Leone have received from Don Bosco an extra gift of courage and creativity. We have abandoned much of the work we had planned: ordinations were postponed, the school year, oratory activities, formation for aspirants… all had to be reviewed. In practice, the Salesians have purified their faith (…) not so much in the sense of “I need God”, but to show our desire for Him.

Don’t let hope die. Before relief activities started a group of forty Salesian leaders was organized to inform, prevent, distribute medical supplies and food to families, to people in isolation, and to care for survivors … that is how we live in hope. This certainly tells us, “all is not over, in fact, there are still people who believe in life.”

The Salesians have seen that, despite many difficulties, only dedication and love can defeat Ebola and conquer death, even if loved ones have died. In this emergency situation the Salesians have had to rethink their way of acting on the spur of the moment.

We are close to the opening of the Holy Year. What does it mean to show Mercy in a situation like the Ebola epidemic?

The words “draw near, walk together, share the load, and give yourself with love …” are words that should become increasingly part of life! We need to learn from God who takes the first step, he wants life.  We need to learn from Christ and from the Spirit who give courage, overcomes fears, gives strength, heals, restores, in a life that leads to joy … These are all elements that basically make us show mercy.

First published by InfoANS on 30/10/2015