Pope in Greece: 'God is offended' by indifference towards migrants
"When we reject the poor, we reject peace. History teaches us that narrow self-interest and nationalism lead to disastrous consequences." "The causes should be attacked, not the poor people who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda. To remove the root causes, more is needed than merely patching up emergency situations. Coordinated actions are needed. Epochal changes have to be approached with a breadth of vision."
Athens (AsiaNews) - "God is offended" by indifference towards migrants. Our response to their cries for help cannot be walls of selfishness, or fears exploited by nationalism for political ends, but the awareness that migration is a problem that concerns everyone, that demands political responses that respect people.
Pope Francis has returned to Lesbos five years after his first visit - 16 April 2016 - to what was then Europe's largest refugee camp - hosting 20,000 people - destroyed by fire in 2020. In the current Mória Refugee Camp there are two thousand migrants.
There are people who have been here for years - six, one woman reports – arriving after avoiding the Greek coast guard, which is most often engaged in repelling boats and rubber dinghies trying to arrive from Turkey, which is clearly visible from the camp. Athens, from where the Pope left this morning, is an hour's flight away.
Francis moved among the people imprisoned in the camp (see photo). They are from the Middle East, from Afghanistan, from Africa. For more than ten minutes the Pope shook hands, caressing the many children crowded along the barriers. "Let us look at the faces of the children", he said in his speech.
"Let us find," he added, "the courage to be ashamed before them, who are innocent and are the future. They question our consciences and ask us: 'What world do you want to give us?' Let us not hastily run away from the crude images of their small bodies lying inert on the beaches".
Francis spoke inside a tent where about 200 people are gathered. The Greek president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, was also there. The Pope's speech is both an accusation and a warning. “I am here to see your faces and look into your eyes. Eyes full of fear and expectancy, eyes that have seen violence and poverty, eyes streaked by too many tears. Five years ago on this island, the Ecumenical Patriarch, my dear brother Bartholomew, said something that struck me: “Those who are afraid of you have not looked you in the eye. Those who are afraid of you have not seen your faces. Those who fear you have not seen your children. They have forgotten that dignity and freedom transcend fear and division".
The pandemic, he adds, has led to the discovery of interdependence. "Yet while we are working to vaccinate people worldwide and, despite many delays and hesitations, progress is being made in the fight against climate change, all this seems to be terribly absent when it comes to migration. Yet human lives, real people, are at stake! The future of us all is at stake, and that future will be peaceful only if it is integrated. Only if it is reconciled with the most vulnerable will the future be prosperous. When we reject the poor, we reject peace. History teaches us that narrow self-interest and nationalism lead to disastrous consequences".
"It is an illusion to think it is enough to keep ourselves safe, to defend ourselves from those in greater need who knock at our door. In the future, we will have more and more contact with others. To turn it to the good, what is needed are not unilateral actions but wide-ranging policies. Let me repeat: history teaches this lesson, yet we have not learned it. Let us stop ignoring reality, stop constantly shifting responsibility, stop passing off the issue of migration to others, as if it mattered to no one and was only a pointless burden to be shouldered by somebody else!".
Many, Francis acknowledges, are committed to raising the plight of migrants, " Yet, with deep regret, we must admit that this country, like others, continues to be hard-pressed, and that in Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them. This is tragic. I recall the final words spoken by the President: “That Europe might do the same”. How many conditions exist that are unworthy of human beings! How many hotspots where migrants and refugees live in borderline conditions, without glimpsing solutions on the horizon! Yet respect for individuals and for human rights, especially on this continent, which is constantly promoting them worldwide, should always be upheld, and the dignity of each person ought to come before all else. It is distressing to hear of proposals that common funds be used to build walls and barbed wire as a solution. We are in the age of walls and barbed wire. To be sure, we can appreciate people’s fears and insecurities, the difficulties and dangers involved, and the general sense of fatigue and frustration, exacerbated by the economic and pandemic crises. Yet problems are not resolved and coexistence improved by building walls higher, but by joining forces to care for others according to the concrete possibilities of each and in respect for the law, always giving primacy to the inalienable value of the life of every human being”.
"It is easy to stir up public opinion by instilling fear of others. Yet why do we fail to speak with equal vehemence about the exploitation of the poor, about seldom-mentioned but often well-financed wars, about economic agreements where the people have to pay, about covert deals to traffic in arms, favouring the proliferation of the arms trade? Why is this not spoken of? The remote causes should be attacked, not the poor people who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda. To remove the root causes, more is needed than merely patching up emergency situations. Coordinated actions are needed. Epochal changes have to be approached with a breadth of vision. There are no easy answers to complex problems; instead, we need to accompany processes from within, to overcome ghettoization and foster a slow and necessary integration, to accept the cultures and traditions of others in a fraternal and responsible way".
"On this Sunday," he concludes, "I pray to God to awaken us from our forgetfulness for those who suffer, to shake us from the individualism that excludes, to awaken hearts deaf to the needs of others. And I also pray to man, every man: let us overcome the paralysis of fear, the indifference that kills, the cynical disinterestedness that with velvet gloves condemns to death those on the margins! Let us oppose the dominant thought at its roots, the one that revolves around the self, around personal and national selfishness, which becomes the measure and criterion of everything".
After the speech, the recitation of the Angelus and the blessing, Francis wanted to visit the families of two of the prefabs where the people live. He passed by a clothesline and a bicycle, listened and greeted. In the background, armed policemen everywhere. (FP)