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Some remarkable figures from the African continent and the works of mercy

A positive difference

As our eyes turn to the Diocese of Bafia in Cameroon, where Spazio Spadoni’s forthcoming forum on the Re-Evolution of the Works of Mercy will take place, we present here three African personalities who have exemplified in their lives the principles of compassion and support for others.

We should remember that works of mercy are charitable actions by which we help our neighbours in their bodily and spiritual needs.  Spotlight on Wangari Maathai, Denis Mukwege and Nelson Mandela and what they have done about it.

Wangari Maathai: fighting deforestation and promoting sustainable development

Wangari_MaathaiWangari Maathai is originally from Kenya. In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the first African woman to achieve this recognition. She is renowned for having founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977.

In Kenya, it is the women who are responsible for collecting wood to fuel the home and fodder for the animals. Unfortunately, deforestation has led to the scarcity of these resources, forcing women to travel ever greater distances. To address this critical issue, Wangari initiated an effort that resulted in the planting of millions of trees as green belts around Kenyan towns and cities.

Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, teach the ignorant

Wangari Maathai worked to improve the living conditions of the women in her community by providing them with resources to grow trees and plants. Her efforts contributed to better health, livelihoods, and increased access to education, allowing women to have a greater role in society. Thanks to her actions, many rural communities have also been able to build safe shelters.

Wangari Maathai died on 25 September 2011.

Denis Mukwege: “the man who repairs women”

Denis_MukwegeDr Denis Mukwege is a gynaecologist and human rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He founded the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, where he has cared for thousands of women who have been victims of sexual violence. His work has been recognised worldwide, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

Heal the sick and comfort the afflicted

Eastern DR Congo is a region where gang rape is used as a weapon of war. Dr Mukwege was deeply affected by this growing and increasingly atrocious violence against women, and decided to take action to help them. He specialises not only in medical and psychological care, but also in the socio-economic reintegration of patients and legal support to restore hope and dignity.

Caring for the sick and consoling the afflicted is Dr Mukwege’s daily routine.

Nelson Mandela: a life of justice and reconciliation

Nelson Mandela, an emblematic figure in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, dedicated his life to justice, reconciliation and equality. After twenty-seven years of imprisonment under often harsh conditions, and after refusing to be released to remain consistent with his convictions, Mandela was released on 11 February 1990. He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and worked towards a fairer and more equitable society.

Nelson_MandelaTogether with President Frederik de Klerk, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for having jointly and peacefully put an end to the apartheid regime and laid the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.

Free the prisoners, advise those who are in doubt

Nelson Mandela worked after his release to free political prisoners and abolish the injustice of apartheid. His policy of national reconciliation between blacks and whites people contributed to healing a nation divided by decades of racial discrimination. As a leader and moral figure, Mandela often provided guidance to the nation and its leaders in building a fair and equitable society. Additionally, he advocated for the rights of children and disadvantaged individuals.

After a single term, he retired from active political life.

Nelson Mandela died on 5 December 2013

Role models of compassion and courage

Wangari Maathai, Denis Mukwege and Nelson Mandela have not only improved the living conditions of their communities through their actions, but have also inspired many others with their compassion, courage and dedication. These African leaders remind us of the importance of empathy and action in building a better world.

Their legacy lives on through the numerous initiatives and movements they have inspired, reminding us all of the power of acts of mercy.



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