A moment of silence.

This is how I wanted to start my speech at the Festival “Harbors of Land”,  organised by Caritas Benevento, who invited me to bear witness to our civil and entrepreneurial commitment to assist those who risk their life at sea.

This was a moment of silence to think about and remember the people on board the Phoenix, but above all those who would never arrive safely because they became victims of our sea, which is increasingly becoming a cemetery.

As has occurred on different occasions, I was physically taking part in the festival, but my heart was on the Phoenix.

My thoughts were out at sea, with those who had been rescued and were waiting to get to their “promised Land”, and so I asked the attendees to pray for those who would never fulfill their dream of finding safety.

What happened on May 24th was an unprecedented and tragic event, even after the experience of what happened over the Easter weekend. It deeply touched the entire MOAS team, who are dedicated to saving lives at sea every single day.

In that silence there was not just our prayers and pain, but also the frustration of still having to experience similar tragedies. Nevertheless, being there with the Caritas family gave me hope. All participants shared their commitment to assist those escaping crisis and persecution. We were surrounded by people who had experienced first-hand positive integration processes, proving that a different world is possible.

Oliviero Forti (Caritas Italiana) stressed again the need for a long-term vision to implement safe alternatives to the fatal sea crossing. I shared his view on behalf of MOAS, as we have been working tirelessly on the establishment of humanitarian corridors for almost one year.

We were glad to receive Pope Francis’ support: he blessed and supported our debate about “harbors of land”. Moreover, I was profoundly moved by the words of Mons. Galantino, who explored the difference between emotion and deeper understanding. Emotions are ephemeral, while understanding implies a more complex and comprehensive process, where our ability to meet and listen to others plays a key role.

After the Manchester terror attack Imam Cozzolino’s words were crucial with his message of brotherhood, the protection of human life, and mercy. I totally agree with his point of view since it proves that while religion unifies, it is men that create separation and division.

Dealing with migration through stereotypes – both positive and negative – does not help our understanding. In order to understand we have to observe, listen, and reach out with our hand towards what being a migrant means. In light of this, I am personally committed to telling the stories I hear on board the Phoenix. Women, men, adolescents – whose voices would otherwise go unheard – can now speak out through those who want to listen to them. This way, their experiences have not occurred in vain.

On May 12th I was at Sabir, in Syracuse, a sea harbor. On May 26th I was in a land harbor showing how welcoming people does not depend on geography, but on those who play an active role in this respect at each latitude.

In the end, as stated during my speech, I will always support people: people who migrate and people who welcome.