Working and getting to know one of the European borders, the island of Lampedusa, allows you to get a true sense of what is happening in the world during this historic time. More people are fleeing their homeland and their homes than at any time since World War II. Therefore, it is not a transitory or emergency situation, but rather an epoch-making, global event that calls into question the whole world and therefore, requires an equally global response.
The migration crisis, with the continuing deaths and now even rejections and deportations, does not only concern Europe but the whole world that seems to divide the north and south, and the rich from the poor. Therefore, being able to also learn about the border between the United States and Mexico was a unique and very educational experience for me. Even more significant was experiencing it through the tireless work carried out by some churches.
In my case, it was the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy through the Mediterranean Hope project, funded by the Waldensian Church, and the United Church of Christ in the United States. Small projects that, at the same time, are big projects. A minority in Italy, though historically significant, has given life to the Humanitarian Corridors project to allow “vulnerable” migrants to safely and legally arrive in Italy directly from other countries (e.g. Lebanon, Morocco and Ethiopia). And in Arizona, where my experience took place in a “small” UCC community that, working at the forefront for more than 15 years, has been able to build a strong network of relationships with other organizations and churches working with migrants.
In this global crisis, where politics has not managed to offer an effective and dignified response, some churches are instead able to become promoters of experimental and courageous projects (just think of the Sanctuary churches) that offer real alternatives during this difficult historical time. Humanitarian channels, presence on the borders, active humanitarian groups, reporting of injustices and human rights violations are a rich testimony of the Gospel that the churches can express with conviction.
Combining the experiences on different borders, through different faith communities, we then ask ourselves, what is the role of our churches today in this global humanitarian crisis? Do we want to be active promoters of change? Do we want to be outraged by the human injustices taking place before our eyes as believers? Can we protest and raise our voices, proposing alternative solutions for some of humanity towards which we must feel fraternally responsible? And why not try to find these responses together, as communities of believers who are facing the same difficult and painful circumstances in different parts of the world?
Courage, boldness, testimony, the ability to take risks and pursue change, solidarity and collaboration are the things I want to say I learned from this experience, in the hope that together the churches can find the solutions needed to meet this global challenge.
Marta Bernardini, Arizona, 06 April 2016