Francis meets the migrants: «We complain about the concentration camps of the last century, the Nazis, Stalin, we say: why did this happen? Brothers and sisters, it’s happening today “
From our correspondent in NICOSIA (Cyprus) «You have arrived here, but how many desperate people are left along the way? We can talk about this sea which has become a great cemetery. Many are kidnapped, sold, exploited. It is the story of universal slavery. And the worst is that we are getting used to it. But this getting used to is a serious disease and there is no antibiotic. Another boat sank …We complain about the concentration camps of the last century, the Nazis, Stalin, we say: why did this happen? Brothers and sisters, it is happening today on the nearby coasts. I have seen some testimonies filmed. I say this because it is my responsibility to help open our eyes ». At the end the Pope looks up, looks at the migrants in the Church of Santa Croce and speaks off the cuff. It refers to the Libyan camps, but also to the border between Poland and Belarus. «Excuse me, I would like to say what I have in my heart. We cannot be silent and look the other way, in this culture of indifference. Forced migration is not a tourist habit. Many rejected end up in places of torture and slavers. They gave everything they had to get on a boat at night, without knowing if they will arrive. This is the story of this developed civilization we call the West. Then, the barbed wire. I see one here, this is a war of hatred that a country is experiencing. But in other parts barbed wire is put in place to keep refugees from entering. People who come to ask for freedom, bread, help, brotherhood, joy, who are fleeing from hatred. And there is a hatred that is called barbed wire. May the Lord awaken the conscience of all of us ».
Francis’ tone is solemn, about fifty migrants arrived at the “ecumenical prayer”, a small representation of the thousands waiting for a visa on the island. «The closures and the prejudices rebuild between us that wall of separation that Christ has broken down, that is, enmity. And he, the Lord Jesus comes to meet us with the face of his marginalized and rejected brother, the face of the despised, rejected, caged migrant … But also of the migrant who is traveling towards something, towards a hope, towards a more human coexistence ». Mariamie Besala Welo stands next door. He comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio was killed on 22 February. Like many, he is fleeing from areas where conflicts have never ended, armed militias, ethnic hatred, massacres. And she is here in Cyprus, waiting too. “I’m full of dreams,” she said. The Pope smiles at her: «God speaks to us through your dreams. He also calls us not to resign ourselves to a divided world, to divided Christian communities, but to walk through history attracted by the dream of God: a humanity without walls of separation, freed from enmity, without strangers but only fellow citizens. Different, of course, and proud of our peculiarities, which are a gift of God, but reconciled fellow citizens ». Next to her are Thamara da Silva from Sri Lanka, Maccolins Ewoukap Nfongock from Cameroon and Rozh Najeeb from Iraq. They are all young.
The church is close to the green line strip drawn by the UN in 1974 after the Turkish invasion and the ceasefire, a thin demilitarized strip that separates Cyprus, to the south, from the northern part controlled by Turkey, 36 percent of the territory of the island. Most of the migrants are African and come from there, people fleeing from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria who through Turkey reach the occupied area to cross the barrier that divides the island and finally arrive in the Greek-speaking part, that is, in Europe, in the hope of reaching the continent. “May this island, marked by a painful division, become with the grace of God a laboratory of fraternity”, says Francis. But the latter requires «two conditions», he warns: «The first is the effective recognition of the dignity of every human person: this is the ethical foundation, a universal foundation which is also at the heart of Christian social doctrine. The second condition is trusting openness to God the Father of all; and this is the “leaven” that we are called to carry as believers. Under these conditions it is possible that the dream is translated into a daily journey, made up of concrete steps from conflict to communion, from hatred to love “.
The meeting also came Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who summarizes the situation to the pontiff: “Cyprus, among the islands of the Mediterranean, is the first to experience the tragedy of thousands of migrants, fleeing war and misery and who stop here, with no way out, without clear prospects for their future”. But this “is a reality that is not spoken of, except at some particularly dramatic moment; it is hidden from the eyes of the majority of the population “, continues Pizzaballa:” It is about thousands of people who cannot remain invisible. Their drama reminds us that the phenomenon of migration is not a local phenomenon, it does not separately affect Cyprus, or the Middle East, or North Africa, or Greece, Turkey, Italy, Poland or any other nation in the world. . It is a global phenomenon, present everywhere, which requires global responses, and on which the international community cannot fail to question itself“. Moreover, “the countries of the first world cannot ignore that their future also depends on the response to this serious problem, that the future of Europe is decided in the Mediterranean, where not only the sources of energy and wealth pass, but also human resources, people and populations, with which one will have to confront and without which there will be no development, no future “. Thus the patriarch of Jerusalem, addressing Francis, concludes: “As you have rightly and repeatedly affirmed, our social, economic and development models necessarily require rethinking. They produce wealth for some and poverty for many, increasingly problematic pollution and migration of thousands – perhaps millions – of people, behind each of which there are enormous family and personal dramas, which do not make the news, but which leave a profound mark on their lives. Our Church obviously is unable to influence these enormous processes, but it can listen to the voice of these people, give them a face and a name “.