‘Alganesh’: From Horror to Hope

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Giancarlo Pani SJ

 Giancarlo Pani SJ / Church Life / 18 April 2019


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Before the landings, which appear daily in the newspapers and the media, and the tragedies at sea, what happens to the refugees and displaced persons who cross the desert? The film Alganesh: Hope on the Horizon,[1] by the team of directors, Lia and Marianna Beltrami, answers this question. Lia and Marianna are a mother-and-daughter team and part of the group Women for Peace in Jerusalem. Lia won the Golden Lion for Peace Award in 2017.

The documentary received a special mention at the last Siloe Film Festival, in the following terms: “It witnesses with power and brightness to one of the saddest and most unappreciated chapters in the current migration phenomenon: the route and abuse suffered by Eritreans between Ethiopia and Sinai. In the realism of the tragedy, Alganesh finds traces of hope.”[2] Ethiopia has always been a welcoming land, but today it hosts more than one million refugees, coming from South Sudan, Somalia and Congo, while those from Eritrea number around 100,000.

The film presents an interview with Alganesh Fessaha, an Italian educated, Eritrean doctor.

She studied first at Asmara and later political science at the Catholic University in Italy. She studied medicine in India too. She is president and founder of the organization Gandhi Charity, in Ethiopia. Her commitment to human rights began with a disturbing chance encounter with five Eritrean orphans in Sudan, who were living alone and had no one to help them. The eldest, who was 13 years old, acted as both father and mother to the others, and begged for alms so they could eat and go to school.

Alganesh remembers the training she received from her parents and decides to dedicate herself exclusively to the little Eritreans. She lived in a camp in Ethiopia. In the film she points out the hut where she spent more than three years and guides us through the four camps where around 60,000 persons are crowded together – some for 17 years – and have no hope for a better future. Her work consists in the protection of the refugees and in the attempt to liberate those who are kidnapped in the Sinai Desert and tortured in the prisons.

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