Shortly after Sea-Watch saw a legal victory in being allowed to rescue stranded migrants, the moderator of the Waldensian board expressed thanks and vowed to press forward in welcoming so-called strangers.
The Waldensian community and the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) have been extending financial, material and logistical support to Sea-Watch among other non-governmental organizations helping migrants on land, at sea and in the skies.
“We are thankful to those who have contributed to closing a shameful and inhumane chapter in European policy,” said Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian board. “We are happy to have made our contribution and will take responsibility for these people, respecting their dignity – as we have continued to do for everyone, Italians included, for whom we have responsibility on a daily basis – as Christian churches in Europe generally do for everyone. Our priority is to help those who are in need and are suffering; everything else comes later”.
FCEI president Luca Maria Negro, said: “This is a church which welcomes. So we wrote in our Welcome Manifesto and so we have put this into practice. We are all strangers to someone else. Jesus himself, Lord of Christians, was rejected when he was in his mother’s womb and then persecuted and killed by those who thought they had power over life and death. As Italian Christians, we love our neighbour and seek universal brotherhood and sisterhood. It is fundamental that we finally have a strategy for reception in Europe, which does not give a millimetre in respect of human rights. There is an obvious need to draft a structured and collective policy in which the watchwords are cooperation, peace and justice.”
Negro added: “Our appreciation goes to those in the Italian government who worked on this solution and it is our sincere hope that a European body might be created which acts every time according to procedures to be activated on occasions such as this.”
Responsibility for hosting the migrants will be met entirely by Protestant churches thanks to funding from the Waldensian board and other donors, as for all the refugee and migrant programmes, chief amongst which are the humanitarian corridors promoted ecumenically since 2015 with the Community of Sant’Egidio.
“We are glad that this situation has become unblocked,” confirmed president of the Waldensian Diaconate Giovanni Comba. “We made ourselves available to welcome these people in the same way that we have welcomed hundreds of others through the humanitarian corridors. We are waiting to receive further details to allow us to put ‘diffuse reception’ in place, which is properly adapted to the differing needs of people and families. Grateful thanks to the Italians who have provided support, financial or otherwise, and continue to do so; we shall continue to apply the resources which we have for the benefit of the poor, whether Italian or foreigner.”
World Council of Churches, oikoumene.org