This last weekend various events took place on the island of Lampedusa off the southern coast of Sicily to remember 368 refugees who lost their lives in the Mediterranean just a short distance from Lampedusa. They had been attempting to cross the Mediterranean in a rickety boat in order to escape literally unlivable situations in their home countries. In addition to members of the Italian Waldensian and Roman Catholic churches, members of ten other European and North American churches were present for those events. This is a statement read by these representatives made at a memorial service for the 368 people who lost their lives at sea.
"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:33-34
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me." Matthews 25: 35-45
Today we are here in Lampedusa to commemorate the victims of October 3rd, 2016 - the tragedy which caused the death of 368 migrants a few meters from the shores of Lampedusa.
We are here because welcoming those who knock on our door is at the heart of the Gospel message that we want to live and witness.
We are here to say that there are alternatives to the deaths at sea and these alternatives are the humanitarian corridors - safe and legal ways to reach Europe from North Africa.
Today on this island, in this church, and with a renewed and inter-religious spiritual ecumenism, we pledge to make a new appeal to the international community, to the European and world leaders, to our sisters and brothers still hesitant or indifferent to the suffering of migrants and refugees.
We are here to ask new migration policies to ensure that our governments and the European institutions adopt reception policies which will put an end to the immigration massacres, the brutality of human trafficking as well as the anguish and fear of thousands of desperate people who have been fleeing persecution, wars, violence and hunger.
We are here because we are committed to monitor the respect of human rights, the quality of reception of migrants and refugees in newly created centers, the effectiveness of the protection that moral and civil laws require us to grant to those who fleeing war and persecution.
We ask everyone to look at these Mediterranean migration flows not with fear and selfishness but under a perspective of solidarity with our fellow human beings and respect for European and international law.
We launch this appeal from Lampedusa to prevent it from becoming a border of new barbed wire fences that divide and hurt Europe and its humanity, but for it to become a place where men and women of good will build bridges of dialogue, cooperation and peace.
This is the prayer that we lift to the Lord, to make us bridge-builders, men and women who know how to open their doors and their hearts to those seeking protection and hospitality. In this moment of commemorations and mourning, this is the commitment that today, in Lampedusa, we undertake together.