Sr Karlo with Kenito and his family

Ethiopia: Together we can build a future of hope.

In Ethiopia, the Menja people live on the fringes of society. It’s been like this for centuries. But now, the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Jesus are doing all they can to overcome the discrimination and hurt the Menja face every day.

Challenging the past

The Menja are excluded from social events like festivals and meetings. Historically, Menja people have been forbidden from entering Kaffa people’s houses, sitting together with them at a table or eating with them at all.

Even though education and growing awareness have helped the Menja, their lives are still marked by social isolation and discrimination.

Sister Karlo refuses to accept this. She seeks out direct contact with Menja families.

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Rewriting the future

Kenito and his family live in Wush Wush. Their home is a simple round hut made of branches and clay. Kenito grows maize and bananas in a field next to the hut to support his family.

His two children – four-year-old Israel and three-year-old Mekidse – run barefoot and rub their eyes constantly, waving away the flies that swarm around their heads. Their mother, Tigist, looks at their red eyes with concern and says apologetically, ‘We have no clean water here. I have to fetch it from far away every day.’

But now Mekidse and Israel can attend the nurserySr Karlo and the sisters run. There they will be able to wash and have a hot meal. Kenito promises to bring the two of them along, even though the nursery is a long way away.

‘You are our friend’

Sr Karlo remembers her first days in Wush Wush very well. ‘Our Menja neighbours were all very shy,’ she explains. ‘Once in a while, I would speak to a lady who sold us firewood. One day, I invited her to come into the house, but she was embarrassed to do so. I told her, “Please come in, Alemeto, you are our friend.” Finally, she came in. We sat together, ate bread from the same plate and drank coffee together, as is traditional here in Ethiopia.

When Alemeto left, there were tears in her eyes, and she said, “Today, your God and my God met.” I had to cry as well – with joy.’ – Sr Karlo

Your church and ours

Things are slowly changing -when the sisters invite people to festivals, the Menja families they’ve befriended come too. They also come to Mass, saying: ‘You are our sisters, you are our friends. We come to your church, where we are accepted and understood. Now, it is our church, too.’

As the Pope’s official charity for overseas mission, Missio works to answer the call to love God and to love our neighbour by bringing the hope of the Gospel where there is turmoil, poverty and uncertainty in the world, through you.

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