Migrants are not statistics, but “people whose dreams have been shattered” (Pope Francis)

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Photo by Miguela Xuereb

Migrants are not statistics but people of flesh and blood with faces and dreams, dreams sometimes disappointed, Pope Francis said on Sunday afternoon before leaving Malta.

The Holy Father concluded his two-day apostolic visit by stopping at the Peace Lab in Ħal Far.

The Peace Lab was founded by Father Dionysius Mintoff, a Franciscan friar, who believed deeply in the need for an open and unrestricted meeting place where people of all backgrounds and attitudes could come together.

In 1971, Father Mintoff led a group that carried out educational and practical work to fight for social justice and human rights. They embarked on an experiment in promoting solidarity and moral values ​​based on Christian beliefs, without excluding any other belief.

The site was originally part of an airfield which saw heavy aerial combat during World War II. It includes a church and a number of halls, surrounded by extensive gardens.

The change from a military station to a peace center was the result of direct political action.

Over the years, the Peace Lab has provided shelter and hospitality to a number of migrants and refugees from Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran.

Referring to the name of the centre, Pope Francis recalled the hope that Pope John expressed at the end of his famous encyclical on peace: “May [the Lord] banish from the souls of men and women anything that might endanger peace. May he transform us all into witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love. May he illumine with his light the minds of the rulers, so that in addition to caring about the material well-being of their peoples, they can also guarantee them the most beautiful gift of peace.

Finally, may Christ inflame the desires of all men and women to break down the barriers that separate them, to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand each other and to forgive those who have harmed them. wrong. By his power and his inspiration, may all peoples see each other as brothers and sisters, and may the peace for which they always aspire flourish and reign among them” (Pacem in Terris, 171).

After listening to the testimony of Siriman Coulibaly, who has lived in Malta for 4 years, Pope Francis remarked: “You reminded us that those who are forced to leave their country leave with a dream in their hearts: the dream of freedom and democracy. This dream collides with a harsh reality, often dangerous, sometimes terrible and inhuman.

You have given voice to the stifled plea of ​​these millions of migrants whose fundamental rights are flouted, unfortunately sometimes with the complicity of the competent authorities. And you drew our attention to the most important thing: the dignity of the person. I would reaffirm it in your own words: you are not statistics but people of flesh and blood with faces and dreams, sometimes disappointed dreams.

We have to start over

Pope Francis has warned against disregard for responsibility and desperation, warning people not to be deceived by such statements.

“Let’s never fall into this trap. Let us respond to the challenge of migrants and refugees with benevolence and humanity,” the Holy Father said.

“Let us light fires of fraternity around which people can warm up, get up and find hope. Let’s strengthen the fabric of social friendship and the culture of encounter, starting from places like this. They may not be perfect, but they are truly “laboratories of peace”.

To hope

Pope Francis and some of those present lit a candle in front of the image of Our
Lady. Reflecting on the gesture, Pope Francis pointed out that in Christian tradition, the flame is a symbol of our faith in God.

“It is also a symbol of hope, a hope that Mary, our Mother, keeps alive even in the most difficult times. This is the hope I saw in your eyes today: the hope that gave meaning to your journey and the hope that keeps you going,” he said.

He prayed to Our Lady that they never lose hope and told them he would keep them in his prayers.

On Saturday, Pope Francis arrived in Malta for a two-day visit which had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The tour ends in Ħal Far.

The will to end corruption should be as strong as the north wind – Pope Francis

His first public speech has been compared to a reader’s summary-styled version of his top social priorities including corruption, migration and peacemaking by Crux Now

In his address, he also called for environmental protection and hailed the role of women in dialogue and peacemaking efforts, while urging European nations to welcome migrants from other places as well. , including those seeking to reach Europe from Libya and elsewhere.

Last week, the humanitarian NGO Sea-Eye rescued 106 people, including 22 unaccompanied migrants. Malta denied any responsibility, the survivors remaining stranded on the NGO’s boat. The ship headed for Sicily due to bad weather but is still waiting for a safe port.

In its appeals to Malta, Sea-Eye highlighted Pope Francis’ apostolic visit and his focus on migration.

106 migrants approach Sicily after Malta refused entry

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