giovedì 20 febbraio 2014

Refugee emergency and the challenge of integration

The uninterrupted inflow of migrants arriving at the southern Italian and Maltese coastlines touches the conscience of the Focolare local communities
“They land on the Italian shores in search of peace, a future, a life that is worth living. During these past months, these migrants are mostly war victims from Syria. Marigen shares how she and her companions from Catania (Sicily-Italy) asked themselves: “What can we do about it?”
Valeria, a Youth for a United World also from Catania, shared how the local train station is crowded by Syrian refugees starting their journey to the Northern European countries: “They need everything: clothes, shoes, bags, food, medicines”.
“We opened our wardrobes and we took out all those things that we’ve accumulated over the years – Paola added – Some of us started fixing missing buttons, iron shirts, others prepared bags of clothes sorted according to type.”
The next day, they went to the train station and handed all to a Moroccan girl who was coordinating the distribution. A place was needed to store all the donations received and on that very same evening a family offered their garage for this purpose.
They also got the opportunity to help and to get to know the migrants who were staying in the mosque, which had been transformed into a dormitory for the Muslim and Christian refugees.
In the meantime, the Focolare community in Syracuse shared in suffering over the loss of Izdihar Mahm Abdulla, the 22-year old Syrian girl who died at sea. “We gathered around the refugees – Marigen narrated – trying to bring them comfort and relief goods. We also took part in the Muslim funeral, praying together with the Imam, the Mayor and the Archbishop. It was a sacred moment. The Imam gave the bishop a Koran as a gesture of friendship and communion.”
Even at Lampedusa (an island further south), following the recent tragedy of so many migrants who lost their lives at sea, the Focolare community along with many others offered hospitality, food, medicines and all that is needed.
Vanessa recounted: “Over here in Malta, migration and integration present a very serious challenge! We have requested permission to help out at the refugees’ detention centres and we succeeded in paying visits to around fifty Somalian women aging from 16 to 50 years. The majority are Muslim and a few are Christians. We give them English lessons and teach them working skills, dancing, singing etc… Every occasion is a good chance to share and build strong relationships with each one of them. We grew very close and we have learnt of their life stories, their amazing journey to reach here, their frustrations, etc… We do our best to give them comfort and hope, trying to promote a culture of integration”.

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