Poverty is not inevitable!

Fr. Pedro Pablo Opeka and Pope Francis at the City of Friendship (© Vatican Media)

When Pope Francis on Sunday, visited the City of Friendship in Akamasoa, a project started 30 years to cater for the poor in the centre of Madagascar, asked the gathering to procaliam with him that “Poverty is not inevitable”.

“Seeing your happy faces, I give thanks to the Lord who has heard the cry of the poor and shown his love in tangible signs like the creation of this village. Your plea for help – which arose from being homeless, from seeing your children grow up malnourished, from being without work and often regarded with indifference if not disdain – has turned into a song of hope for you and for all those who see you,” Pope Francis said.

Song of Hope

“Every corner of these neighborhoods, every school or dispensary, is a song of hope that refutes and silences any suggestion that some things are ‘inevitable’. Let us say it forcefully: poverty is not inevitable!”

The Akamasoa Association sets out to engage poor people in creative ways, helping them to build a dignified lifestyle for themselves. Dignity, according to Fr Pédro, – an Argentinian missioner who set up this village – means providing shelter, employment, and education. It means breaking out of the cycle of crime, violence, and hopelessness, according to Vatican News.

“Helping but not assisting” is one of Akamasoa’s mottos. The Association works alongside and together with poor people, helping them build necessary structures, like schools, workplaces, and healthcare facilities, so that they can prepare a future for themselves and their children.

500,000 people benefited

Since its foundation 30 years ago, the Association has helped create housing for over 25,000 people, giving rise to 18 villages, complete with dispensaries and schools that provide education for some 14,000 children. In total, around 500,000 Malagasies have befitted from emergency help in the form of food, clothing, and health care.

“Dear young people of Akamasoa, I would like to say a special word to you. Never stop fighting the baneful effects of poverty; never yield to the temptation of settling for an easy life or withdrawing into yourselves,” Francis said. “Allow the gifts that the Lord has given you to flourish in your midst. Ask him to help you to be generous in the service of your brothers and sisters.

In this way, Akamasoa will not be merely an example for the coming generations, but something even greater: the point of departure for a work inspired by God that will come to full flower in the measure that you continue to witness to his love for present and future generations.”