Lombardi editorial: Refugees need hope

2012-06-23 Vatican Radio

Dying of hope

"Dying of hope". This is the paradoxical title of the prayer vigil held in Rome on the occasion of World Refugee Day (June 20) organized by groups working on this issue. Prayer in memory of those who died during their dramatic journeys to escape persecution, to escape human rights violations, to escape hunger ... from many - too many - countries around the world.

They died from suffocation in trucks, they died of thirst and hunger crossing deserts, they die in attacks by robbers, they die passing over rivers and mountains, they die trying to traverse the sea packed in some of the smallest and most crowded boats that have ever existed. It is said that there have been 20,000 deaths in recent years as people try to get to Europe, with nearly 3,000 in the last year among those trying to reach Italy by crossing the Mediterranean.

But people are not just trying to get to rich countries. In recent months, more than 70,000 people have sought refuge in the Mberra camp in Mauritania after fleeing from Mali, which is divided by civil war. And in how man parts of Africa has conflict given rise to immense refugee camps?

Each new story of a person in flight is more distressing than the one before it. From the camp in Mberra comes the story of three young women with small children, whose husbands have been killed in conflict. They are defenceless and vulnerable, often victims of sexual abuse. But how many more women, how many more men? And then, how and where does one start again when one no longer has anything and is completely uprooted?

As well as providing shelter and food, what is also needed is to listen, to understand, to provide human and spiritual comfort, to begin rebuilding even the smallest amount of trust in others and in life. From this, a person can begin again to hope in the future. This is one of the biggest challenges for believers and people of good who truly want, at last, to start to build a better world.