Written by the American Waldensian Society
Two social workers belonging to Mediterranean Hope, a ministry for refugees and migrants sponsored by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, have been involved in many rescue operations, carried out by Open Arms, a ship operated by a Spanish non-governmental organization Proactiva.
The first rescue operation was carried out during the night of Friday, March 9. The rescue involved three Libyan brothers who had embarked from Libya in a small rubber dinghy. The three brothers were trying to reach a port where the youngest, a minor who suffers from a serious case of leukemia, could be treated. Many Italian newspapers reported on this event exposing the tragic situation of refugees in Libya.
A few hours later, on Saturday morning, March 10, the Open Arms intercepted a group of 106 refugees of different nationalities. At the end of these two operations, the rescued refugees were transferred to a European rescue vessel, the SOS Mediterranée, thereby allowing the Open Arms to continue searching for more boats filled with refugees. In fact, the following morning, the Open Arms intercepted another dinghy with 95 people aboard - yes, 95 people, that is not a typo! - and then brought them safely to the Italian port of Pozzallo. All operations were carried out in coordination with the Italian Coast Guard.
During the mission, one of the Mediterranean Hope's social workers, Daniele Naso, took responsibility for feeding the rescued refugees as well as his fellow crew members. The other Mediterranean Hope social worker, Francesco Piobbichi, took part in the rescue actions in other ways and then depicted the key moments in drawings. A collection of Piobbichi's earlier drawings about refugees arriving on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, titled Drawings from the Border, has been published by Claudiana.
Paolo Naso, Daniele's father and coordinator of Mediterranean Hope, explained the rescues this way: "Our humanitarian commitment has an evangelical soul. Through the presence of Mediterranean Hope social workers on rescue vessels in the Mediterranean, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy puts into practice the Gospel message that we should welcome migrants as well as protect the life and dignity of our neighbors, even if they happen to come from another continent. As a federation of Protestant churches, we have joined in supporting the ministry of Humanitarian Corridors with the Roman Catholic lay community of Sant'Egidio and the Waldensian Church in Italy. We are also working with the Sant'Egidio Community and the Waldensian Church in welcoming asylum seekers arriving in Lampedusa. We also support initiatives to integrate migrants through the ministry of the Casa delle culture in Scicli, Sicily, as well as in several other centers near Rome in which we offer shelter to the most vulnerable refugees. Moreover, we work with various agencies of the European Union to affirm the rights of refugees and asylum seekers."