Pope in Cyprus: migrants come to ask for help and find a hatred named barbed wire
“May the Lord awaken the conscience of all of us before these things. We cannot remain silent and look the other way from such a culture of indifference,” Francis said. “I have seen some filmed testimonies about this: places of torture and human trafficking. I say all this because it is my responsibility to help open people’s eyes to this reality. Forced migration is not a kind of ‘tourism’! And our sinfulness leads us to think: ‘Those poor people, those poor people!’ and with those words, ‘poor people,’ we blot everything out.”
Nicosia (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis took part this afternoon in an ecumenical prayer with migrants at the Holy Cross Church in Nicosia. During the meeting, four young people – who came to Cyprus from Iraq, Sri Lanka, Cameroon and Congo – told their stories, each different yet each marked by hatred and violence.
In his address, the pontiff used strong words. “Those who come to ask for freedom, bread, help, brotherhood, joy, fleeing hatred are faced with a hatred named barbed wire,” he said off the cuff. “May the Lord awaken the conscience of all of us before such things. We cannot stay silent and look the other way from this culture of indifference.”
This meeting was the first of two events dedicated to migrants (the other will be in Greece) in a visit characterised by outreach to those forced to leave their home. Citing Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, Francis said: “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). Speaking to the migrants, Francis added, “Like yourself, God dreams of world of peace, in which all his children live as brothers and sisters.” However, “the danger is that many times we won’t let dreams in.”
“It is easy to look the other way. And in this world, we have grown accustomed to a culture of indifference, a culture of looking the other way and thus sleeping peacefully. [. . .] God calls us not to be content with a divided world, content with divided Christian communities, but to journey through history drawn by his own dream: the dream of a humanity freed of walls of division, freed of hostility, where there are no longer strangers, but only fellow citizens [. . .]. Fellow citizens who are diverse, yet proud of that diversity and individuality, which are God’s gifts. Diverse, proud to be diverse, but always reconciled”.
“Your testimonies are like a ‘mirror’ held up to us, to our Christian communities”, he added. Citing Thamara, from Sri Lanka, who earlier said “that people often ask, ‘Who are you?’ Francis noted: “we too are sometimes asked the same question: ‘Who are you?’ And sadly, all too often, what is really being asked is: ‘Whose side are you on?’ ‘What group you belong to?’ Yet as you said, we are not numbers, names to be put on a list; we are ‘brothers and sisters,’ ‘friends,’ ‘believers,’ ‘neighbours’ to one another.”
“But when group or political interests, even of nations, push, many of us remain on one side, unwittingly, slaves. Because interests always enslave, always create slaves. Broad love, that is contrary to hatred, makes us free.”
“As I listen to you and see your faces, I am reminded of another thing: your suffering. You arrived here, but how many of your brothers and sisters are still making the journey? How many desperate people have set out in difficult and precarious conditions, but did not arrive? We can think about this sea, which has become a great cemetery. And the worst is that we are getting used to it: ah yes, today a boat sank.”
“Looking at you, I see the suffering caused by your journey; I see all those people who were kidnapped, sold, exploited… and who are still on the journey, we know not where. We are speaking of slavery, of universal enslavement. We see what is happening, and the worst thing is that we are becoming used to it.”
“This ‘becoming used’ to things is a grave illness, a very grave illness, and there is no antibiotic for it! We have to resist this vice of getting used to reading about these tragedies in the newspapers or hearing about them on other media.
"Looking at you, I think too of all those people who had to return because they were turned away and ended up in concentration camps, real concentration camps, where the women have been sold, and men tortured and enslaved…”
These stories are not from last century, from Nazism or Stalin: “This is happening today,” the Pope lamented. “I have seen some filmed testimonies about this: places of torture and human trafficking. I say all this because it is my responsibility to help open people’s eyes to this reality. Forced migration is not a kind of ‘tourism’! And our sinfulness leads us to think: ‘Those poor people, those poor people!’ and with those words, ‘poor people,’ we blot everything out.
“This is today’s war: the suffering of our brothers and sisters, which we cannot pass over in silence. Brothers and sisters who left everything behind to get on a boat, in the dark of night, and then… without knowing if they would ever arrive. And all those who were turned away and ended up in the concentration camps, true places of torture and enslavement.”
“Such is the story of this developed civilization that we call the West.” (FP)