“During their journey from Africa, many people suffered severe violence, sometimes they saw their loved ones dye in front of their eyes. Therefore they live with traumas that prevent them from living and working peacefully, even after several years”. Speaking is Rachel Gerber, coordinator of the Jerusalem African Community Center, which welcomes African refugees that landed in Israel. There are really many stories of people forced to leave their country and that are victims of the most terrible atrocities.
Today they struggle to survive in a context that is already frigile for several other reasons. The Custody of the Holy Land did not want to ignore this phenomenon, and this is why ATS pro Terra Sancta – upon request of the Custos Fr. Francesco Patton – has been supporting the center for African refugees (about 3000 only in Jerusalem) for some months now. Most of them are Christians and come from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, countries where Christianity has been present since the early centuries. These people often find themselves being deprived of civil and political rights, ghosts in a city that lives an already complex political-social situation.
“We never ask for religious affiliation, – explains Rachel – but surely some of them can also be Catholics as well as belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church”. In the small JACC office, in the heart of Jaffa Street, it was possible to create a space where children and families receive assistance from a legal, educational and health point of view every day. ATS pro Terra Sancta offers help for these projects, including English and Hebrew language lessons, projects for youth, assistance in school education, humanitarian and psychological aid.
In her three years together with the many JACC volunteers, Rachel remembers when one day someone knocked on the door: he had a business accident, his wife had lost her job and was pregnant. The man could not even get compensation because he did not have a bank account and the volunteers in the center tried every possible way to help him. “When I came back from my trip to Africa – Rachel says – I met him on the street and he was happy, he had found another job and his children went to school”.