For solidarity without boundaries

2013-07-04 L’Osservatore Romano

Lampedusa is just one of many points of convergence around the globe where different worlds meet. The vast range of refugees routes extends to include those in boats who make their way to Australia, Yemen, Italy or Malta; by truck crossing the Sahara desert to the north; on foot crossing through the desert from Mexico to the United States; overcoming rivers to enter South Africa from Zimbabwe or leaving Afghanistan through Turkey to Greece: these variegated migratory flows are a global phenomenon.

Pope Francis' presence in Lampedusa will be a powerful gesture to summon the attention of all, and of course, to make known that the Good News of Jesus is addressed to every life and for every situation. The Pope himself said: “Let us not forget the flesh of Christ which is in the flesh of refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ” (Address to the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 24 May 2013). Christ is present on the island in those who have arrived, but also in the local population that welcomes them. As everywhere in the world, likewise in Lampedusa the challenges are addressed by the local people, who are sometimes overwhelmed and must accommodate large numbers of unexpected newcomers.

The refugees and asylum seekers must be guaranteed of their respective rights. Since they have the right to flee for their lives, they should also be granted the right to access asylum in the host country. In addition, all other rights to protection should be applied for them. The right to freedom of movement and the right to work must be applied and extended further. Governments should protect those fleeing violence, persecution and discrimination. Over the years, States have expanded the concept of refugee in order to respond today's challenge, and the international legislation that provides greater protection to people who are forced to flee has also been changed. Unfortunately, the current attitude of many governments seems contrary to these decisions, it being understood, however, that States have an obligation to provide protection to people who are fleeing.

Saving lives, restoring dignity, providing hope and giving social and communal answers, is closely connected with moral values and the Christian vision. This involvement with the presence of refugees, asylum seekers and people who have been forcibly uprooted might lead to a further renewal of the Church that will force us out of our familiar world into the unknown, on a mission, to bear witness to the Lord.... The Holy Father's visit could be a new beginning for us all.

Antonio Maria Vegliò