“The influx of immigrants at the border is growing by the hour. The economic crisis that is bringing the country to its knees brings pain both to those who stay and those who decide to flee.”
The words of Silvano Roggero, a Venezuelan and son of Italian immigrants, show the drama that an entire people is living through. For the last three years he’s been living in the Focolare center in Lima, Peru.
“Despite enormous difficulties caused by the sudden and unexpected entry of hundreds of thousands of people, the neighboring countries, with the usual generosity of these lands, are attempting to take them in. I have personally witnessed one of the many dramas that today’s ‘humanity at the periphery’ is living through.
“Just yesterday the director of a school in the peninsula of Paraguaná, in the north of Venezuela, wrote to me. Something different is happening in the office there: a number of parents have come to withdraw their children. They have been forced to leave.”
It’s an exodus of biblical proportions, caused by an extremely serious economic and social crisis, one that is overturning the makeup of an entire country. Inflation has skyrocketed, and food, medicine and raw materials are running out.
“In December 2017, Ofelia and Armando from the Focolare community in Valencia (the third-largest city of Venezuela), moved to Lima. At first they managed an early childhood center.
“Then Ofelia had a dream: find somewhere to offer a preliminary welcome to the swarms of people arriving after travelling seven days over land. We’re talking about close to 300,000 Venezuelans arriving in Peru over the last year and a half!
“Ofelia and others,” continues Silvano, “organized a welcome dinner in the Focolare for a small group of Venezuelans. Some already had heard of the movement, but there were some who did not know anything about our group. Our guests came from different parts of the city, some as far as an hour or two away. They find it difficult to get around in this metropolis of almost 10 million inhabitants.”
It seemed like a drop in the ocean, but what motivated them was to welcome these people as if they were Jesus in person who turned up at the door.
“As you can imagine, faced with their difficult situations, we did not have preconceived solutions. We had no idea where to begin even, although what we could do was offer them a hot meal and listen.