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April 21 2015 | BARI, ITALY

International Colloquium

Christians in countries at war, minorities, massacres of the sea: the proposals of Sant'Egidio and the Interchristian Summit of Bari 29-30 April: the word to the Churches of the East

Press Conference of Andrea Riccardi and Marco Impagliazzo in the Hall of Peace of Sant'Egidio -Initiative with the Federation of Evangelical Churches to open a humanitarian corridor in Morocco and Lebanon ensuring safe travel for asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East - The government of Tripoli is committed to stopping the traffickers of the desperate

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Conceived as the first "Interchristian Summit" to address the plight of persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East, the preparation of the International Colloquium "Christians in the Middle East: What future?", Promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Archdiocese of Bari, was hit by the tragedy of hundreds of migrants killed in the Mediterranean. And so, if the goal of the Colloquium to be held in Bari on 29 and 30 April remains to "fill a void of thought, listening and action", said the founder of the Community Andrea Riccardi, now the horizon has expanded to the entire spectrum of an emergency that seems endless. Indeed, said the president of the Community Marco Impagliazzo, in the press conference that was held in the Hall of Peace of Sant'Egidio, the goal is precisely to "overcome the emergency" starting from ''listening to the reality", giving the floor to the protagonists, to the heads of the Christian Churches of the East, who "see how it is challenged the permanence of their communities in the lands where they have been present for centuries, even before the Muslims".

To listen to their testimony, how the European leaders will do in Bari - from the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni to the Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, Paul Richard Gallagher and to the representatives of the German, French, British, US, Russian, Greek and Cyprus governments- should serve to overcome the "deafness" manifested by the international community and its diplomacy with respect to a problem so far faced by using wrong tools like war or by hiding its head under the sand of the desert. "War is useless - said Impagliazzo - it is not an instrument of conflict resolution; wars begin and never end, and leave behind unpredictable consequences. What is missing is a legitimised instrument of international police that can operate in certain local situations to find a solution to crisis situations".

For the cooling of the crisis in Syria, remembered Andrea Riccardi, the instrument suitable diplomat instrument had been identified in the proposal "Save Aleppo", the project to save Aleppo, the city of millenary cohabitation between religions and cultures, with a truce protected by the international community. A proposal launched by Sant'Egidio and welcomed by UN envoy Staffan De Mistura, who forwarded it to the Security Council, but it was inexplicably abandoned by European powers: a good idea that "remained overwhelmed by the events but even before by the forgetfulness and the disengagement of the international community", said with regret Andrea Riccardi; and yet "the quarry remains open, although it was temporarily abandoned by the workers that had been called to carry on the work".

Riccardi also recalled the proposal, launched by himself three years ago and that, to date, has not been listened to, for a "Safe Haven" concerning the plain of Nineveh, where there are Christians and other minorities. What to do now so that the same failure is not repeated on the tragic front of the landings? Marco Impagliazzo reported eloquent figures: from January to date of 133 landings in Italy 105 were generated in Libya; out of 17,000 refugees arrived on our shores, 14,000 were from the Libyan coasts. It is therefore there that it is necessary to intervene. In this regard, the president of the Community has given an account of the first promising results of the diplomacy of Sant'Egidio: "We have asked the government of Tripoli to give a proof of good will by acting on human traffickers to stop this shame, and the government of Tripoli responded positively, just as it has committed to giving proper burial to the victims of the last wreck. We consider it a small but concrete sign of the will to open a serious negotiation to address a huge problem".

The initiative developed by Sant'Egidio together with the Federation of Evangelical Churches is on the same level so as to act in such a way, said Riccardi, that "to come to Europe as refugees does not mean any more for refugees from Africa and the Middle East to undergo ‘the death trip’ of boats adrift in the Mediterranean”. " The initiative was illustrated by Marco Impagliazzo: "It is about opening a humanitarian channel in Morocco and Lebanon, connected to the European consulates, to which asylum seekers can addressed to obtain a visa allowing them to safely deal with the journey towards salvation". The hypothesis to test these "humanitarian desk", said Impagliazzo, "is already provided by the Schengen agreements and by the Lisbon Treaty itself, which provides for a form of 'subsidiary and temporary protection' for those fleeing from wars or natural disasters. In this way, we could ensure a safe and secure transit route for refugees to Europe. The serious crises of these days justify the use of a measure, however, legally allowed. The funding of these 'humanitarian desk' would be secured, on the one hand, by 8 per thousand donated to the Evangelical Churches and, on the other hand, by voluntary contributions collected by the Community of Sant'Egidio".

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