October 4: Inauguration of Harambee 2002
The Holy Father had scarcely made public the date for the canonization when an initiative of solidarity with Africa was announced to those planning to attend the ceremony: the Harambee 2002 project. Christian concern for one’s neighbor took on an added motive: the joy of the canonization, lived as a gift from God and understood personally by each one as an opportunity to help someone in need.
In the Kiswahili language, “harambee” means “all together.” It is the cry fishermen make when dragging their nets to the beach. Hence it is the word that naturally comes to mind when undertaking a common task, such as helping a family in need or building a school or a church. Each one provides what he can: his or her own work, gifts in kind or in cash, but “all together.” All give and all receive. In that same spirit, so similar to the teachings of Saint Josemaría, the organizing committee for the canonization set up a network for collecting funds among the participants in the October 6 ceremony. A donation of five Euros was suggested, although each could give whatever he or she wished. The money collected would be made available to all organizations promoting educational programs in sub-Saharan Africa. A group of experts was set up to study the requests for financial assistance and distribute the funds.
On the evening of October 4, the public introduction of the Harambee 2002 project was held in the auditorium of St. Cecilia, close to St. Peter’s Square. The mayor of Rome was present along with other government officials. The event included a musical program with performances by choruses from around the world, intermingled with personal testimonies from doctors, educators, and experts in international cooperation, most of them Africans, and all committed to the cause of human development on the African continent and animated by the spirit and teachings of the Founder of Opus Dei. The honorary president of the Harambee project, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the widow of Kenya’s first president, delivered some warm words of gratitude at the conclusion of the event.
Harambee 2002 is not the only solidarity project that the canonization gave rise to. The Laguna Care Center, dedicated to the care of the elderly and the chronically ill in the Latina district of Madrid, and the Aq’on Jay clinic in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, are two other initiatives that resulted from the desire to share the gift of the canonization with those most in need.
Romana, No. 35, July-December 2002, p. 202-203.