So That It May Not Happen Again
It’s impossible to see, or to understand, the deep emotional scars hidden behind their stoic expressions. And yet, for those who survived an exceptionally brutal civil war in the Ivory Coast, the lasting traumas of their experiences remain far too real. In Duékoué, our Salesian missionaries work hard to heal resentments, and address the root causes of poverty, despair and violence—so that such atrocities may never happen again.
Documented in “30,000,” an award-winning film directed by Raúl de la Fuente, these atrocities were countless: Mothers beaten in front of their children. Babies attacked with machetes. Orphans forced into slavery, or onto the front lines of the conflict. And women and children deliberately left alive so that they would suffer.
At the height of the terror, thousands upon thousands of victims fled directly to Saint Therese of the Child of Jesus in Duékoué. There, despite a lack of adequate space, facilities or resources, Salesian missionaries offered a safe haven; food and water; medical care; and spiritual and emotional comfort to all. The results were truly life-saving!
Today, eight years after the conflict ended, missionaries remain committed to rebuilding trust, purpose and hope: both among those they helped save, and the broader population.
“Every day, you come into the market and encounter the man who killed your parents…and yet, you have to smile and carry on? But simply turning a page like that isn’t fair.” says Father Carlos Berro, director of the Salesian community in Duékoué. By lending a voice to those who were previously silenced, the Salesians are working to build a path toward forgiveness among those who “lost” the war and those who “won” it, so that they may live together in mutual respect and empathy.
At the same time, Salesian missionaries hope to develop and expand access to education and job training opportunities, especially for young people who emerged from the war with no support. At the Handicraft and Rural Vocational Center, such youth can learn culinary skills, tailoring and carpentry in an environment that promotes social consciousness and civic responsibility.
“This fulfills two crucial goals that, together, prepare students to become contributing members of society,” explains Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “When they train in a marketable trade and find employment, they can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. And when they understand and are willing to participate in the political life of their country, they begin to realize their duty to do what they can to ensure peace.”
The Ivory Coast’s problems haven’t been solved—and the road to lasting harmony remains long but Salesian missionaries will walk alongside the country’s people for as long as it takes, on their journey to a brighter future.
Our mission brings new hope for peace and a better future in countries affected by conflict around the world. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in the Ivory Coast.