What is our attitude towards the millions of children, women and men who have to flee their homeland because of violence, war and grinding poverty? Do we see them as our sisters and brothers, or as a threat or a burden—or do we simply ignore their desperate need?
On 7 January 2019, in his annual but defining address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “Among the vulnerable of our time that the international community is called to defend are not only refugees but also migrants. Once again, I appeal to governments to provide assistance to all those forced to emigrate on account of the scourge of poverty and various forms of violence and persecution, as well as natural catastrophes and climatic disturbances, and to facilitate measures aimed at permitting their social integration in the receiving countries. Efforts also need to be made to prevent individuals from being constrained to abandon their families and countries, and to allow them to return safely and with full respect for their dignity and human rights. All human beings long for a better and more prosperous life, and the challenge of migration cannot be met with a mindset of violence and indifference, nor by offering merely partial solutions.”
A day earlier, on 6 January, in a “heartfelt appeal” to European Leaders, Pope Francis in his Angelus message on the Feast of the Epiphany, urged them to show “concrete solidarity” and respond with compassion urgently to the plight of 49 migrants aboard two ships in the Mediterranean Sea. The Pope was speaking to over 60,000 people assembled in St Peter’s Square.
The Dutch-registered vessel ‘Sea-Watch 3,’ operated by a German humanitarian group, picked up thirty-two of the migrants off Libya on 22 December while ‘Sea-Eye’—a second ship run by a different German charity—rescued another seventeen people on 29 December. Most of them are literally stranded at sea for more than a fortnight. Both Italy and Malta (countries with apparently Christian roots) have refused permission for the ships to land.
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