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The Marist Brothers in Ivory Coast

09/02/2014: Côte dIvoire

I write from the Marist House in Bouake (in the center of Ivory Coast). We arrived in Abidjan already at night yesterday, and the city received us as always, with this loving slap of wet heat warning you that this is Africa, and that if you want something from her, you must sweat blood. We are at it!

Today we traveled into the country up to the Marist mission. You know that the endless hours driving to reach the place where the filming will take place – whether by hellish roads or relatively decent highways – has much prominence in most of my chronicles. The freeway linking Abidjan with Yamousukro was quite an unexpected gift today.

We were brought here by José Antonio Ruiz and Javier Salazar, two Marists who are in love with this Continent full of life, magic, problems and hopes. One of them has been living here for forty years. The other has spent twenty years going back and forth, although Ivory Coast has seized his heart forever.

Well, for a journalist like me, sharing a trip by car with people like these is a treat, a stroke of luck, a pleasure, and an inexhaustible source of information, ideas, opinions, views, always with the feet on the ground. So I was thinking how lucky we are in this program to contact people like them, and how many colleagues take very little advantage of this fact.

I know these countries are mentioned only when there is a conflict and the pieces of shrapnel, the bleeding wounds, and the people crying in the corners reach our television screens. But even in those cases, no colleagues come to these sources of information, to the many Spanish missionaries who have been giving their life to this land forever. They are people who have been here before, during and after the conflicts, who do not seek the business of charity, and are not paid by the pompous international cooperation. But there is great prejudice among information professionals about these men and women who left everything behind to follow an ideal, and who remain here, with their lights and shadows, doing their best.

In our program People of God, we have known for a long time that people like José Antonio and Javier have many stories to tell and much to teach us. Not because they are saints but because they are driven by an inexhaustible energy, marked by honesty, and sealed by a vocation. We will spend the next few days with them, visiting different projects supported by SED (Solidarity-Education-Development), a Marist NGO in Spain.

(Ricardo Olmedo, People of God – Spanish Television TVE).

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