A People on the Run

 
Ever since the beginning of the serious crisis inVenezuela, the uninterrupted flow of people on the run is colliding with a tightening of border laws in neighbouring countries, but the Focolare community in Peru has not stopped welcoming Venezuelans. The story of Silvano Roggero from the focolare in Lima.

According to reliable sources, on the 11th of August alone 5,100 Venezuelans crossed the border between Ecuador and Peru, a record that exceeds last May when in 3,700 new arrivals arrived in one day. This is why Ecuador has declared a state of migratory emergency.” Roggero, born in Venezuela of Italian parents, knows Latin America where he lived for almost 40 years before moving to the Peruvian capital in 2015. Not only are Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru grappling with an epochal exodus, but also more distant countries like Chile, Argentina and even Uruguay and, according to many observers, it threatens to provoke one of the greatest humanitarian crises in recent decades. The new rules of entry into Ecuador and Peru a few days ago imposed on Venezuelan citizens to show a passport, which is impossible to obtain these days.

“This is something hard to understand if you aren’t experiencing it for yourself. The Venezuelans who have fled to Peru may have already reached the quota of 400 thousand people. They fled from a country in the grip of a very serious crisis where everything is lacking, and I’m here to find a job and keep together the rest of the family that’s been left in Venezuela at the cost of great sacrifice. They are willing to do anything, they often go hungry; they spend even 3-4 hours a day on the bus to earn just a few dollars. Many sleep on the floor and suffer from cold because they do not even have a blanket and shower with cold water. But at least they know that the family members who went to stay in Venezuela (wife, children, brothers, grandparents …) have a roof over their heads and can somehow survive with the few dollars that come from abroad.

Meanwhile, the Focolare community has been trying to welcome people, relatives or friends, who keep arriving. “What is important for us,” says Silvano, is that they find a family atmosphere. Then, if we can share some food, jackets, medicines, a blanket or some help in obtaining a temporary residence permit, even better. On August 12th we met for the third time in the Lima focolare with the Fiore Center one of our operations offices. We were 23 people, two thirds of whom were Venezuelan. First, those who wanted could attend Mass. Then we offered lunch on two large tables. Before leaving, we saw a video presentation of Chiara Lubich, because most of the people did not know the Movement. An always moving moment is when we distribute clothes that the local community collects for us. We also laughed a lot when one of the people was wearing his coat, which he picked up by accident. This unusual happiness concealed some very harsh realities and all kinds of painful stories of the journey from Venezuela. Talking and listening to them has been a liberation for them. To somebody in emergency we could offer, in the meantime, some washing machine tours. To some others we were able to offer a few turns of our washing machines for their laundry.

Two rocker friends of one of the guests showed up by chance and left deeply moved by the relationship they had seen among all of us. They called us “quality people”. It seems that this definition, in the rocket world, at least in Venezuela, is the highest possible compliment. And it was not over yet: from the one you would least expect came an invitation to say a final prayer. All of us in a circle joined hands and offered a prayer that was very meaningful! That same evening we learned that the UN estimates that 2.3 million Venezuelans have already fled the country since the beginning of the crisis. So we still have a lot of work to do – and for quite a while. “

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