Thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East are embarking on deadly journeys on a weekly basis from the coasts of Libya and Tunisia hoping to reach the European continent in search of a safer and better future. Most of these people are fleeing war-torn places like Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan and other regions where they’re facing religious and ethnic persecution, or are simply caught in the middle of civil unrest.
Many of them have already lost family members or experienced different forms of trauma themselves before even embarking on what could potentially be the most dangerous leg of their journey: the trek across the Mediterranean Sea on overcrowded vessels. At that point they’re confronted with the reality that surviving physical and psychological torture doesn’t guarantee their survival at sea.
During the past few weeks alone thousands have died due to capsized vessels.The Italian Coast Guard and the European Union are having a hard time keeping up with rescue efforts and holding people accountable for what has turned into a major human trafficking operation.
So what happens with those surviving immigrants once they reach Italian soil? They may be physically safe, but their journey is far from over. Pastor Leonardo de Chirico, Vice-Chair of the Italian Evangelical Alliance, shared with CBN News how churches in Italy are working with local authorities to bring hope and assistance to migrants.
From coastal cities like Sicily to places farther inland like Rome, churches are helping out with legal aid and language skills, to just offering a listening ear and becoming friends with migrants as they figure out what’s next. Churches are making sure their outreaches are culturally sensitive with the understanding that many of these migrants come from religious backgrounds that are hostile towards Christians – that’s something they keep in mind, but it’s not an obstacle to serving them.
Pastor De Chirico explains that although some Italians are viewing this migration crisis as a form of invasion, many other Italians are more sympathetic and compassionate.
Any similarities with the immigration crisis in the U.S. and how it’s viewed?
(This post first appeared on CBNNews.com)