Less than one week ago I wrote about the carnage of Scicli: not even in my worst nightmares I would have thought to have the need to report another massacre just a few days later, a massacre 30 times bigger, with some allegedly 300 people drowned in front of Lampedusa.
In front of such a tragedy my temptation would be to remain in silence: no words can express the grief for such a number of men, women, children dying while they were looking for a better life, far from the poverty and the daily violence of their countries.
But I can’t. There is an image, among the many incredible images we have seen on tv, which is still stuck to my mind: not the bodies, not the desperation of the rescuers, not the shock of the few saved ones, but a pair of shoes. Yes, just a pair of black new shoes near the body of a child. It could seem strange but it has been this image to move me to tears and the reason is that those shoes made me understand how much hope got lost in the shipwreck of Lampedusa: I can imagine a mother in Somaliland, in the poorest country of Africa, going to buy a pair of new shoes for her child just before leaving … I can imagine a mother dreaming of a new life for her child and buying what she could barely afford to prepare him to a “new world” they never reached.
And it’s in front of those shoes and of what they represent that, as a man, as a Christian, as a Minister, I can’t remain in silence, even if I know my voice counts for nothing, even if I am unfortunately sure this is not going to be the last tragedy of this kind we will see.
They won’t stop coming and this is a matter of fact, a sort of physical effect, a terrible living proof of the theory of the communicating vessels: they are many with nothing, we are less and less with much and no law, no advice, no warning or intimidation will ever have an effect on them, simply as they very often have nothing to lose, simply as “hope” is really the last thing you can steal from a human being.
So what can we do?
Our politicians discuss and discuss about new laws to halt immigrants, about other hindrances to prevent other landings and the result is nothing or, better, the result is simply to make all of us (not only Italians, I mean Europeans) in a way accomplices of a crime.
A couple of examples could clarify the concept.
1) in Italy we have a quite clear migration law, created a few years ago, saying that you can obtain a visa to come and live here only if you already have a work contract signed by an Italian firm before coming. I don’t want to discuss the law in itself (though I am still trying to understand how could a worker find from Africa or South America find a job here before coming) but perhaps not everybody know about a small clause of this law saying that if you facilitate illegal migration in any form you are prosecutable as accessory after a crime, which means that you can be put in prison for helping an illegal immigrant in any form. One could think this is a clause against the slave merchants illegally carrying people towards Italian shores, but those two words “any form” mean much more: in example they mean that the fishing boats of the rescuers of Lampedusa are now under requisition and, theoretically, the fishermen could even be put in jail. Almost surely they won’t be arrested but now they can’t work till the dissequester of their boats and there have been many reports of some ships (fortunately a minority as thanking God for many people the human instinct is stronger than the law of profit) not stopping to save the shipwrecked of Lampedusa not to risk problems.
2) The European Community government is a quite intrusive organism when a member state shows economic problems (a 0,1% of inflation more than a certain limit looks like being enough for a hard fine or a direct intervention of the Community) or when it’s time to rule the production of this or that product but when things come to migration and to all the problems related to it, well, everything is different and these are considered “local problems” of the Mediterranean countries facing the African coasts: no help is given in patrolling the sea, no help is given in rescuing adrift ships, no help is given in managing the refugee centres. The only European intervention is to blame when a state like Italy, with almost 7500 km of coasts, doesn’t manage to control all the landings, to help all the broken down boats of the traffickers or to give adequate help to all the people in the refugee structures. It’s all about business, it’s all about money, as usual: human life, human dignity is always a secondary aspect and, sorry, this stinks to me too much of the Levite who doesn’t care about the man helped by the Samaritan in Luke 10 to be acceptable, to appear even at large moral and human.
If I really had to say what I think, I would say that the whole problem stands in the existence of concepts like “state borders” and “national territories”, entities born from greed, selfishness and fear and, in my opinion, sounding incredibly in contrast with a concept of human brotherhood under the same Father as, in example, expressed without any specification and limitation, in Genesis 1: ” And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness “, I would say that if before (or instead of) thinking about ourselves as Italians, Brits, Americans, Indians, Arabs, Kenyans of whatever else we would think about ourselves simply as human beings, sons of the same Father (and, at least in this case, His name doesn’t look like being so meaningful), with the same problems, with the same desires, with the same dreams, with the same Earth to share, we would probably erase 80% of the problems of the Humanity. Yes, I would say this because this is exactly what I think and what I believe in but I know this would look too naive even for a utopian like me.
So I just want to ask a couple of questions (let’s say to myself).
a) How many people state to be Christian in Europe (I’m saying Christian but I know I could as well mention other religions sharing similar values)? According to statistics (2010) in Europe there are about 520.000.000 of Christians (at least nominally). Well, how can they cope with the thousands of dead due to migration, do nothing and go on considering themselves Christians? Didn’t they read the Gospel? Didn’t they read the “Holy father”? Didn’t they read in the Bible? Couldn’t they understand “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19)? Don’t they understand that, pretending not to see means to be co-guilty of the worst theft possible, the theft of the hope of a human being (if not homicide)? Or are our fear and selfishness so strong to cancel also our faith, to turn us into a big bunch of hypocrites?
b) Ok, let’s forget about Christians: in the end we are living in a secularized society and, in Europe, Christians are less and less. Let’s just turn to rationality. So, we are preparing harder laws as we are afraid of the foreigners, of the immigrants. Why? I am thinking about the common answers: they steal our jobs, they can’t find a work so they become criminals, they take our resources…
Rubbish, just rubbish!
Let’s try to see the thing from a different point or view, having a look to statistics. We can discover that:
1) when are immigrants stealing our jobs? In two cases: if they are more skilled than us or if they ask less money than us. If they are more skilled, they would “steal” our jobs anyway as we are living in a global market but when do they ask less money than us? When they can’t ask the same salaries we ask and this happens much more when we deal with illegal immigrants who are forced to hide;
2) what are the immigrants looking for? They are looking for a better life and, to have it, they are looking for a job: if, after migrating, they can’t find it in a place where there is no job they move to another place where they can find it (it’s not a case that, in last months, the number of immigrants settling in Italy is decreasing and decreasing): only a minority of them is formed by criminals who were already criminals in their countries (and, actually, they are anyway the ones with less problems in coming and, looking for more “profits” they would move in any case and with any kind of law trying to stop them) or by people moved towards criminality by their illegal status with no visa;
3) to cope with illegal immigration and these landings is taking many more resources than a job market open to everybody, with a free movement of workers.
So, in my opinion, finally only the fear for “diversity” justifies repressive laws about migration, a fear which is just a tribal, ignorant heritage, a fear which goes against any sense of humanity, any sense of spirituality.
So, once again I will pray as I can do nothing else: I will pray not to see interest and fear win again and again on humanity and faith, I will pray not to hear about other proposals to put new harder barriers to migration as they will only provoke new tragedies, I will pray that our political leaders, all over Europe, could understand that new inclusive perspectives are probably more productive than the old exclusive ones and surely are more worthy of human beings.
I will pray to see no other black new child shoes aside a body lying on the sand. No more. Never more.