“They land on the Italian beaches in search of peace, a future, a life that is worthy to be called as such: in these past months they are above all the victims of the war in Syria, protagonists of a new “biblical exodus” as it is called by many”. Marigen, shares how she and the other focolarinas of Catania (Sicily-Italy) felt directly called by the faces of the refugees and the always more insistent disembarkations: “What can I, we do about it?”, they asked themselves.
From Valeria, a youth of the Movement,they came to know that everyday at the train station of Catania there is a crowd of Syrians who begin their journey towards the countries of Northern Europe. “They need everything – Valeria shared: clothes, shoes, big bags, luggages, food, medicines”.
The focolarinas immediately go into action: “We opened our cabinets and we brought out all those things that have accumulated there and that could be of use to others – Paola added. Some of us started to sew on missing buttons, to iron a shirt, others prepared bags of clothes sorted according to type. The experience of Chiara Lubich and of the first focolare in Trent during war time was very much present in our mind”.
The next day, they went to the train station and gave all that they had gathered to a young Moroccan girl who was coordinating the distribution. They discovered that a place to store all the donations received was needed. That very same evening a family offered their garage for this purpose.
They also had 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. Lina, a focolarina from Jordan, translates their stories that is full of suffering and hope.
In the meantime, the community of the Focolare Movement of Syracuse shared with the entire city the suffering of the loss of Izdihar Mahm Abdulla, the 22-year old Syrian girl who died at sea because she could not bring with her the medicines she needed. Marigen continued: “We gathered around the refugees trying to bring them comfort and the material things they needed. We participated in the Muslim funeral rites held in the churchyard of the Cathedral. We prayed together beside the Imam of Catania, the Mayor,and the Archbishop of Syracuse. There was a sacred atmosphere. We gather around the coffin united by this great suffering. The imam gave the bishop a Koran as a gesture of friendship and communion”.
Also in the island of Lampedusa, with the tragedy of the deaths at sea of so many, the community of the Movement, together with many others, faced this emergency by offering: hospitality, food, their homes, sharing with the migrants not just their surplus but even what was indispensable.
In the nearby island nation of Malta, the Focolare community also felt they wanted to do something upon the arrival of the refugees along the coastline of their Island. “Here the challenges of migration and integration are quite strong,” Vanessa related. “For two years now, we have started to be aware of the steps we could take and so we asked for permission to enter the detention centers where many refugees are gathered”.
They organize groups to take action on various fronts. “I am part of the group which visits the detention centre,” Vanessa continued, “We have met around fifty Somalian women from 16 to 50 years old, the majority of whom are Muslim and some Christians. We gave them English lessons, teach them working skills, dance, but the most important things is the relationship with each one: to listen to them and to share their frustrations, their life stories… We came to know of very delicate situations that have even led to thoughts of suicide… We realized that our willingness to listen to them is a very important resource, and we have seen with joy how much our visits bring them comfort and hope. This attitude of welcome is what we try to live and to share with them so as to promote a culture of integration”.