Christmas for all, especially for the refugees on the "Balkan route". In the past few days, a group of Youth for Peace have met with migrants in Trieste, Rijeka, Croatia, and Bihaç in Bosnia.The harsh winter weather in these areas has come back and the climatic conditions are getting worse every day, thus increasing the desperation of the many who still see the end of their journey as far away.
This is not the first time that the Youth for Peace have crossed the border 'backwards' to meet migrants forced to live in the mud, with no electricity or heating. And this time, too, the encounter was touching. Receiving a gift, a hot meal, a word of encouragement or a warm welcome is crucial for them.
There are many difficult stories you hear in these places, like that of Karima, a 13-year-old Afghan girl we met in Bihac. During activities organised on one of the festival days, she wrote the name 'Leila' on a bracelet. Her brother, a little older than her, later told us that that was the name of their baby sister who was killed when she was only three months old by the Taliban.
More than 500 migrants including Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Iranians and Bengalis participated in the various activities and parties organised in Trieste.
Every day, the 'Friendship Lunch' welcomed some 60 migrants. A moment of refreshment and respite from the cold and, indeed, a moment of friendship and sharing.
On the last day, we all gathered in prayer in the Church of St Anthony Thaumaturge, to remember those who lost their lives on the journey to Europe. Many people from Trieste and migrants gathered to remember those who could not reach Italy. There was great emotion for the memory of those who died of hope, linked to the concrete commitment to which we felt called as we listened in these days to the cry of those who flee persecution, poverty and war in search of a peaceful future in Europe.