Profughi

I wanted to get a Bible but my hands were dirty…

“We don’t have any Bibles left,” said Tommaso to a Nigerian refugee, inside one of the many refugee welcome centres of the province of Trapani, Sicily.  “Why did you run away when you saw us distributing Bibles, five minutes ago?”
“I went to wash my hands because I wanted to get a Bible so much but I didn’t want to get one with dirty hands,” replied Vincent, in tears.
Stefano was struck by the amount of love and respect that the refugees of the welcome centres were showing the Bible. He was there in the Summer of 2015, with other young people from his community helping Tommaso distribute clothes and Bibles to refugees, many of which were coming from sub-sahariane countries. When Stefano went back to his hometown, Chieti, he began to stop refugees in the street, asking them if they needed anything and if they wanted a Bible. He met a Nigerian named Lacki and when he gave gave him the New Testament he saw his face brighten into a smile. Lacki took the present with great joy and tapped it against his chest and shouted: “God is in my life, he is in my heart.” Two brothers in Christ had just met!
These are just two stories out of many which show that when the people of God move, tragedies such as the immigration going on in the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans can turn into signs and seeds of divine providence which, as always, turns the evil deeds of man into something good. The root of immigration is the sin of man behind which lies the social unbalance of our planet and the threat of its survival.
I led a small mission group, which included the youth of my church as well as those of other local churches and many university students to support the African refugees arriving in Sicily.
The name of the mission “Foreigners like us” came from Leviticus 19:34. We chose this name as we are convinced that welcoming does not come with an if or a but, but it is a must for every Christian in Christ who lives for the Word of God. Our aim was to distribute clothes in the welcome centres, hand out Bibles, share the gospel and meet other brothers and sisters in Christ who managed to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Our experience was amazing. We felt part of the action that the Holy Spirit wants Christians to carry out in this moment. We have so many stories to tell. We can testify that God is at work and he is urging his sons to work as well. All this is injecting a new kind of enthusiasm into the tired western churches.
Stefano’s experience is a testimony to this: when he returned to his city he started, together with other people, looking for the refugees who live among us, here in Italy.
Our experience with the mission was a confirmation that welcoming has to involve three key elements:
•Share the gospel, in a loving, understanding and delicate way
•Show Christian love when meeting the needs of desperate men and women by taking time to listen to them and take actual care of them (give clothes, directions, information, advice etc.)
•Look for the suffering church which lives among the refugees of any nation.
In our mission, there were some university students from the GBU program. I often asked myself the following question; ‘How can these two different worlds – students and refuges – meet?’
Here are some suggestions:
•Reduce the space of entertainment. This is a state of emergency and we should cry and suffer together with those who cry and suffer. Use our holidays as an opportunity to give a hand to others. Go back to our local churches and help in anyway we can.
•Some study programs require work experience or training in the field. This is a perfect opportunity for pedagogy, education, psychology, sociology and medical students to gain this experience in the field.
•There is a great need of people who can speak foreign languages: English, French but also Arabic, Bangali, etc. It’s easier among students to find people who can speak these languages.
•There is a great need of people to be able to understand legislative matters, who can deal with prefectures, local associations and institutions. Students or people with degrees in law, economics, social services, etc.
I believe that now more than ever there is a great need for a collaboration between secular and spiritual vocations. The local church has to be the body that coordinates those who are willing to help and the action to be taken in dealing with the refugees.
If students act, they will have amazing experiences.
Daniel, from Sierra Leone, was a child soldier with severe family trauma (his parents were killed), survived the Mediterranean Sea and now is one of those refugees that knows the Lord and his Word. At the end of a morning spent cleaning the coastline of a Sicilian city together with other refugees and our volunteers, he made a prayer while we were sitting all together singing and praising the Lord: “Thank you Lord because today you gave us the strength to do your will and be useful in our society.”
God is at work, even in tragedies.

 

Giacomo C. Di Gaetano (Staff GBU a Chieti)


Some resources on the refugee crisis:

If you have other resources, especially from the student world, please write to us!