Every Wednesday, during the traditional Papal audience, St. Peter’s Square is becoming the pulpit from which Pope Francis again and again calls the attention of the world and of the Church on the plight of refugees and displaced persons, on the responsibilities of individuals and Countries alike, asking them to open their doors and to protect all of those fleeing from war, environmental disasters, political and religious persecution, new forms of slavery. Also past Wednesday, March 16, commenting on some pages of the prophet Jeremiah, re-reading “the jarring experience” of the Exile to Israel, Francis recalled the sufferings and hopes of so many people on the move today: “How many of our brothers are currently living a real and dramatic situation of exile, far away from their homeland, with their eyes still full of the rubble of their homes, and in their heart the fear, and often, unfortunately, the pain of having lost loved ones”.
Pope Francis has at heart the destinies of 60 million refugees in the world, and with thought and prayer, crossing Albania, which today is struggling to recover from material and spiritual ruins caused by persecution and civil war, takes us by the hand in Greece to look into the eyes of the thousands of people massed on the border, rejected by our Europe, men and women like us, “suffering from cold temperatures and the lack of food”, who, most of all, “do not feel welcomed”.
The Pope’s realism is disarming, distant from a false account of migration that the political and media realms have accustomed us to.
Before these tragic scenes of rejection, suffering and refoulement, the Pope invites us to look upon those nations that open their doors to refugees and migrants today with esteem.
Today the world’s ten most welcoming countries are Turkey, with over two million refugees (from Syria) ; Pakistan with 1.5 million, (from Afghanistan): Lebanon with 1.2 million (Syria); Iran with 1 million (Afghanistan); Ethiopia, 700 thousand (South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea) , Jordan, 650thousand (Syrians); Kenya, 550thousand (Somalia); Uganda, 428thousand (South Sudan); Chad, 420 thousand; Sudan, 356 thousand (South Sudan)
The poor are the most welcoming people
The first ten Countries that UNHCR indicates as the Countries with highest numbers of refugees are in Africa and Asia, and in the Middle East. Not Europe. The rich Europe, with a population of 550 million people, has welcomed in 2015 300 thousands people, the same number of those received in Lebanon, a Country with 4 million people. Turkey, which we have asked to stop and host the refugees, is welcoming almost twice the number of refugees present in EU Countries.
It’s a European scandal!
These are the contradictions of a European world that fails to remember its own history, and that most of all fails to extend its glance to the future. Europe today prefers to allocate between 3 to 6 million euro to Turkey to stop the refugees, as had been the case of Libya before, rather than employing those resources in our cities and nations where more people are dying than being born, in order to set up new homes and centres for the reception of migrants. This situation signals the weakening of democracy, and perhaps it is also a sign of the weakness of our evangelization.
(*) director general Migrantes Foudnation generale della Fondazione Migrantes