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Friendship with the Poor

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dsc_0149_15512500023_oThe third “work” of Sant’Egidio, fundamental since the very beginning, is the service to the poor. The students of 1968 who began gathering around the Word of God, felt the Gospel could not be lived if we ourselves were far from the poor. Thus the first service, Scuola Popolare, of the community began, before it was even named Sant’Egidio. It was called the “People’s School” because it was not simply providing extra tutoring for drop-out children of the slums of Rome, but rather the beginning of a friendship between the rich and the poor. Starting from the “Cinodromo” shacks along the Tiber, it has multiplied and reached almost all the cities where the community is present, known in the United States as School of Peace. In each city the community opens the School of Peace to all who want to join, but pays special attention to the most disadvantaged children in the most difficult situation and areas.

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The Community did not stop with serving children. In accordance with chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, this friendship widened to other poor people: physically and mentally disabled, homeless, foreign immigrants, terminally ill people; and to different situations: prisons, homes for old people, gypsy camps, refugee camps. Over the years the Community developed a sensitivity towards non-traditional poverty, especially in European countries where, for example, elderly remained alone even if they materialistically wealthy.

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Sant’Egidio identifies with those who are considered the least, considering them as brothers, with no exclusions. They are fully part of the family of the community. Wherever there is a community of Sant’Egidio, from Rome to San Salvador, from Cameroon to Belgium, from Ukraine to Indonesia, friendship and familiarity with poor people are always at the centre. There is no community, not even the youngest one, which is so small or weak that cannot help other poor people. It is the “widow’s mite” which has great value for the Lord (Mk. 12: 41).