February 2024: Ethiopia / Lalibeal: Laudato village dedication, part 2

Making room for the lives of the unhoused/ Laudato village dedication, part 2

Peter said to Jesus: “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will build three tabernacles here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Matthew 17:4

This Bible verse came to mind on this remarkable day when we handed over the third of three large housing settlements to our most needy people. As Lalibela is growing so fast and becoming more populated, the number of needy people (destitute, disabled, sick and orphans) is increasing at a great rate. The high rate of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, mental health problems and difficulties increase the likelihood of people being affected by homelessness.

As a small charity, our PBF has been helping the needy in various ways over the last two decades to minimize the number of homeless people. So far, we have built two large housing estates.  In addition, there are hundreds of individual houses that have been built in almost every corner of the city or the surrounding area.

Laudato Si – the name goes back to St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun – is our third site and part of the promotion to create safe and stable housing for homeless people. They live with chronic illnesses, disabilities or other severe economic problems. Laudato Si consists of three large blocks of flats with a total of 24 individual rooms with shared walls, 24 individual kitchens, a shared water supply, a dedicated facility with eight toilets and two bathrooms. There is also additional accommodation for the caretaker of the entire estate.

The houses will remain in the ownership of the community so that they can be reoccupied by other people in need in the event of death.

The houses were handed over to the new 95 residents on February 4 in the presence of the mayor and other senior officials as well as invited guests from the community.

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This was a really big day for all of us. It highlights a remarkable achievement by PBF in Lalibela. I notice how people were overwhelmed with deep inner emotions, joyful faces with tears in their eyes.

Looking at their emotions, it is easy to imagine the conditions and living situations in which these people have often survived for decades. This deep emotion reminds me of the Bible passage in Matthew 17:4.

I could sense that a house is more than a building of bricks, mortar and tiles! Rather, a home goes far beyond that into the realm of emotional rootedness. There is a deep desire within ourselves that brings lasting joy and a sense of fulfillment, especially for people who have a strong spiritual connection.

Our PBF has witnessed all of this by constantly seeking out the forgotten life situations in the community, giving hope and a sense of belonging to those on the margins of society, that they are welcome and that they are getting what they deserve as our fellow human beings.

Mesay Mekuanint

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