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October 28 2013 | MILAN, ITALY

Dialogue and solidarity with Syrian refugees

At the meeting "Milan 2013. Religions and the good of the city": Sant'Egidio and the young Muslims of Milan together for the reception of refugees

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In these days of emergency for the transit through Milan of hundreds of Syrian refugees, young Muslims belonging to different associations (GMI , Together for a free Syria) and young Christians of the Community of Sant'Egidio and of the Coptic Church of Egypt, have worked together to give support and be close to the drama of the Syrian refugees.This was discussed at the meeting "Milan 2013. Religions and the good of the city", promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Fondazione San Fedele on the occasion of the celebrations of the anniversary of the Edict of Milan in 313. The meeting, held on the eve of the anniversary of the meeting for peace in Assisi in 1986, was an opportunity for discussion with the religious and immigrated communities of Milan on their commitment to the common good in the city. 

The closeness to the Syrian refugees is an experience of dialogue in the solidarity that opens a new way of collaboration among religions. Since the beginning of October, every night the youth of the Community of Sant'Egidio and of the Muslim associations have brought food, blankets, clothes, medicines, but above all human warmth and closeness to families, often with small children, who slept in the cold of the Central Station, waiting to leave for Northern Europe. To place the poor at the centre has helped us not to look at the differences, but to engage together for a more human city. Solidarity has infected the city: many Milan people have joined this spiritual force and the Municipality has decided to open two reception centres for more than 250 people. 

Nada Kabakebbji, of the Management of the Young Muslims of Italy, told us how the collaboration with the Community of Sant'Egidio began: "One day I was told that the Community of Sant'Egidio would come to help. I confess my initial position a little skeptical about the real contribution, due to my lack of knowledge of the Community, and to a sense of general confusion about the situation so that it could not be handled by anyone. They came in many, with blankets, clothes, hot tea and food. They supported us, asked what they could do, how to help and how the people were. The next day I got calls: yes, they were with us and would take lunch and dinner. From the initial restlessness, I felt surrounded by people who asked only how to help. The sense of brotherhood in humanity grew, any barrier that the media sometimes install in our heads was eliminated, any fear was eliminated and we worked, side by side, and we helped. The Prophet Muhammad told us: "None of you is a true believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”. Helping others becomes a work that combines mysticism and action.

Meanwhile, in the Central Station you listen to the stories of the refugees fleeing the horrors and the war in Syria. They crossed the Mediterranean on barges, they know that some comrades are dead. They then escaped from the centres of the south to Milan: they do not want to stay in Italy, but to reach Sweden, Norway and Germany, where many have relatives. The only way is to cross the border secretly, many succeed, but there are some rejections and those who return to the Central Station feel down and remain without any money.

Every refugee has his or her own story. Y. arrived in Milan four days after losing her baby due to the trip on the barge and escaping later from the Sicilian hospital not to be identified and forced to remain in Italy. H. is desperate: he has not yet had the courage to tell his wife that their youngest son is dead, he told her only that they can not find him anymore. She wanders with her eyes full of tears and the photo of the child in hand, asking everyone if there is any news. Ranea, a Palestinian refugee born in Syria, lost a brother who was killed by bombs; on the second attempt, she managed to cross the border with her two daughters and a few days later she wrote a text message to a friend of the Community of Sant'Egidio who she had met at the station: "I have arrived, I am in Norway. Thank you for the night when you told me that you hoped with me. God bless you".

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