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June 2 2016

Joint statement

Humanitarian corridors: an ecumenical project to welcome and integrate

On the occasion of the Republic Day on 2 June, and in the face of the tragedies that continue to occur in the sea, the three sponsoring organisations of the first #HumanitarianCorridors made in Europe spread an appeal so that permanent channels of welcome are established and integration favoured.

 
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In the week behind us in the Mediterranean Sea, at least 800 people died who, fleeing from hunger, persecution and war, were trying to reach Europe. They were not killed by the violence of the sea but the indifference of those that refuse to understand that migrants arriving exhausted on our shores are not adventurers attracted by the West wellbeing but men, women and children fleeing from various tragedies and linked together: wars, poverty, desertification, bombardments, deportations, torture. The rapid increase of children often unaccompanied by any parent gives us the measure of a crisis that is becoming more and more acute.

Faced with what is becoming a routine of death, as Christians we fight what Pope Francis, not surprisingly from Lampedusa, called the "globalisation of indifference". It is our consciousness of people that have known and confess the love of Christ that urges us to do everything in our ability to protect the most vulnerable people, welcome them in safe places and accompany them on their path of integration into new countries. And it is the Christian vocation to peace and justice for all - not just for us! - that makes us say, in the words of the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches pastor Olav Fykse Tveit, that these migrations "have root causes that we must take on and fight together in the name of the God of life, for the salvation of migrants and the entire human family".

It is in this spirit that we, Catholics and Protestants together, have proposed and initiated the experience of "Humanitarian corridors" that, on the basis of a protocol signed with the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, have already brought in Italy about 200 migrants fleeing from Iraq and Syria. They are vulnerable people that need protection - refugees, single women, minors, disabled or sick  persons- for whom we have guaranteed a safe access route to Europe. We did this with our resources so as not to overburden the host system set up by the Italian institutions, and we thank all those that, in so many ways and to an extent that we did not foresee so high, have wanted to support us and join us in this service. This is the sign of a generous Italy that understands the gravity of the situation of those that run away and knock at our doors, and which is not subject to the chorus of those that invoke impossible walls or even request the end of rescue at sea because it could encourage new arrivals.

Faced with the tragedy to which we are witnesses, "Humanitarian corridors" are the proof of a possible, safe and sustainable alternative, able to protect the life and combat human trafficking in the Mediterranean. We have also experienced, with this project, how it is possible to start for those already arrived a process of integration into the fabric of our society, starting from learning the language. We thank the Italian institutions that have believed in "Humanitarian corridors" and are enabling us to carry them out, in these days so full of pain we can only renew our commitment so that this good practice can be consolidated in Italy, spread to other European countries and become a real permanent welcome channel recognised and carried out at the level of the European Union.

Our faith requests it from us and it moves us to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty; we are allowed to do it by the existing laws that authorise the granting of visas for humanitarian protection reasons; it is a duty according to the cultural and legal tradition of Europe that was born and has been strengthened by establishing the principle of the protection of human rights and international protection.

  

Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Table

Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community of Sant'Egidio

Luca M. Negro, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy