The Focolare Movement is involved in various countries around the world in welcoming Afghan refugees. In Italy, to date, about 400 people have offered to open their doors to the refugees. There has been an immediate response from individuals, families and entire communities, from the cities of Milan to Ragusa.

The Focolare Movement in Italy has launched an appeal to welcome Afghan refugees brought to our country by the first air bridges. Since 26th August, through the local Focolare communities and many people involved at various levels in local or national networks, an invitation was issued for the reception and accompaniment of immigrants. The appeal calls for: an assessment of the possibility of opening not only the Centres of the Movement, religious institutes, rectories, parish buildings, but also private homes; the identification of those who would be willing to collaborate for this emergency by supporting the arriving refugees; collaboration with local authorities and organizations. It’s all work in progress, which aims to combine private initiative with the reception systems set up by the Ministry of the Interior, and which is already taking its first concrete steps in line with what Pope Francis expressed in the Angelus on Sunday 5th September, that all Afghans “whether at home, in transit or in the host countries”, may “live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbours”.

It did not take long for responses to arrive: some people offered their professional experience, others their own homes, or empty houses. Among the first to respond to the appeal was a nurse from Bergamo who said: “In between my shifts, I am available to help in any way”. Others offered their legal, health, or education-related skills. A family from Lombardy, with five small children, offered to host a child. Not just families, but entire communities are responding to the Pope’s invitation to open rectories and churches. Religious orders are discerning how to participate: for example, a group of religious from the Vesuvian countries. Then there are entire focolare communities, such as in Pesaro, Milan, Cosenza, who have come together to join forces and find a suitable place where they can welcome people.

Contacts continue with some organizations and cooperatives with similar ideals, which can support and sustain this family-like welcome with relevant means, such as the “Fo.Co. Cooperative” (Chiaramonte Gulfi, RG) and the “New Ways for a United World Association” (Rome). In Marino, (Lazio), reception is already underway by the cooperative and non-profit organization One city is not enough, which acted immediately. Since the very first days of the emergency, some Afghan families have been hosted at the Mariapolis Centre of Castelgandolfo. On 28th August, people in several cities in Italy took part in the initiative promoted by the Economy of Francesco in favour of the rights and freedom of Afghan women.

Alongside all these actions, funds are being raised, small and big amounts:  one person unable to open their home had their family jewels evaluated so as to contribute to associations that could use the money locally for specific needs that cannot be covered with State contributions. The bank account is the one already in use for the Covid Emergency. Contributions can be made with the indication, WELCOME AFGHANISTAN.

Maria Chiara De Lorenzo

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