Posted June 20, 2003
Sant'Egidio -- Who We Are and What We Do
Friendship with poor people
The third "work" typical of Sant'Egidio (links to web site), fundamental and daily commitment since the very beginning, is the service to poor people, lived as friendship. The students of 1968 who began gathering around the Word of God, felt the Gospel could not be lived far from poor people: poor people as friends and the Gospel as the Good News for poor people. Thus the first service of the community began, when it was not yet 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 (like the "Cinodromo" shacks along the Tiber), but it was the beginning of a friendship between the rich and the poor. Since then, the people's schools multiplied, in Rome and in all the other cities where the community lives, with special attention to the most disadvantaged children in the most difficult situation.
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 a sensitivity towards non-traditional poverty developed, especially in European countries where, for example, old people remain alone even if they are wealthy.
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).