Pope Francis hears the testimonies of several young economists and entrepreneurs attending the Economy of Francesco in Assisi, on the third and final day of the event.
By Francesca Merlo – Assisi, Italy
The best way to end the third and final day: Pope Francis’ participation. The young people attending the Economy of Francesco filled the same hall in the Lyrick Theatre of Assisi that they filled when they first arrived, but something was different on Saturday. Their hearts and minds were fuller.
Pope Francis’ presence filled the hall with his desire to encourage the young people in making the global economy better and more equitable.
The Pope was greeted by the young people, who then began their various performances, beginning with an adaptation from the Book of Isaiah. Actors and actresses from all over the world asked and answered questions in a call-and-response form, in a reflection of the bible passage read.
Music followed before 8 young people stood up and gave their testimonies.
Serena Ionata, an economics student from Italy, told of how in her studies she notes a strong emphasis being placed on States, Nations and institutions. Instead, she says, the Economy of Francesco (EoF) meeting has been living proof that “the economy is first and foremost a matter of human relations, then of goods; it is a matter of people, then of goods; first of common goods, then of private goods.”
She asked that we each begin again – to look at our economy and the men and women who inhabit it first and foremost with a look of fraternity.
The next testimony came from Henri Totin, executive director of an NGO in Benin. Henri has dedicated his life to the study of circular and green economies, which he is working to apply to help the lives of those who live in Dangbo, in the valley of Ouémé where the people have been fighting an invasive plant that covers waterbeds in the areas.
Now, he works with all the various communities affected by this plant, turning it into fertiliser, and sometimes even art. Today, continues, and thanks to the Economy of Francesco, he and others like him are working to enhance this green and circular economy to continue working with communities affected by nature.
Facundo Pascutto is from Argentina, and works on a project called “100 Assisi”, dedicated to implementing and working on the Pope’s green economies.
This project, he said, “on the one hand, generates systems of relationships between community actors that either did not exist or needed to be strengthened. On the other hand, at each meeting we commit ourselves to address a problem, and from there we work together to mitigate this problem (it can be environmental, labour, professional training, among others). And thirdly, we discuss these issues from the perspective that Pope Francis teaches us.”
The common good, he concludes, is the driving force for change towards integral development.
Lily Ralyn Satidtanasarn is only 14. As an environmental activist, she recounts having met with multiple government ministires, but stresses that “first and foremost I am a member of the youth, fighting for our future. I had started my activism when I was 8.”
Though she was told she was too young to be an activist, Lily used that negativity to persevere. Now, thanks to EoF she feels that she is no longer alone.
“We must encourage other young women and youth to push through the barriers that are meant to seal them in, by giving them resources and opportunities like the ones given to me today. To Educate and Nurture.”
Samuel Lekado from Kenya works in a Maasai community, running community services to raise awareness on conservation.
Through the internet he was able to connect with members from the Economy of Francesco. “Today I have a group of 20 kids who were rescued from illiteracy and sent to school. We have created awareness on health and environmental issues.”
Samuel says he carries the whole Maasai community on his shoulders, noting that what is created at the EoF is what Martin Luther King dreamed of.
“Climate change remains a big challenge and a crisis in the whole world. It is therefore my humble submission that we team up to be a green environment and ambassador of our own beautiful lands. The gift that God gave to mankind to control. Plant a tree, save the future.”
A young lady from Afghanistan recounts how her 20 years of work, fighting for women’s rights, was undone by the arrival of the Taliban.
“My husband had also participated in some demonstrations against the new regime: his job was given to a Taliban member and our house was burnt down. On 26 August 2021, we were scheduled for a flight to the US, but the bomb explosion made it impossible to get to the airport. Then the departure blockade forced us to stay in Afghanistan.”
She was contacted by the Economy of Francesco in October and since then she was able to land in Italy, and is now working from here to continue what she started back at home.
Mateusz Ciasnocha is a farmer from Poland: The Farm of Francesco. “We are on a mission of connecting two worlds and two words: agriculture and justice,” said Mateusz. Here, he continued, there is a community working to fight these injustices that we face every day.
We want to continue putting our dreams into action, stresses Mateusz, “please rest assured that the Farm of Francesco – and the farmers of the world, young farmers in particular – are willing and ready to continue actively support the EoF’s engagement in international processes, as well as strengthening bottom up, fraternal actions across the world, including through the Laudato si’ Action Platform.”
Andrea has been a prisoner for nine years. During this time, he says, he has had a lot of time to reflect on the meaning of life, and on what caused him to stray so far from it.
Since realizing his error, he has been able to pick up his studies again and feels he is on the right track. He is aware of being in a prison that allows detainees to be rehabilitated, calling it “a place where the human being is given a chance to bloom.”
Andrea, through his imprisonment, is able to work, and knows he will leave prison as a better person than when he entered.
“Every human being has great potential: it just needs to be discovered. I didn’t even believe it myself, and it was thanks to the people who supported me that I am here today to bear my testimony.”
At the end of these testimonies, Pope Francis spoke, before hearing short descriptions of the various villages the young people took part in throughout the three-day event.