In front of nearly 200 migrants at the Christian refugee center of Hal-Far, south of Malta, Pope Francis once again warned humanity against the risk of a “shipwreck of civilization” in the face of the migration crisis, on April 3, 2022. In his last speech in Malta, the pontiff reminded Christians that welcoming the stranger is a sign of “fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus”.
“I am here to assure you of my closeness,” says Pope Francis. Four months after meeting migrants in a refugee camp on Lesbos during his trip to Greece, Pope Francis addressed the same words to the refugees hosted in the “John XXIII Laboratory of Peace” center.
Upon arriving at the place, the Pope took the time to greet the people hosted in this “laboratory of peace” founded in 1971 by a Franciscan. The centre aims to welcome asylum seekers by promoting solidarity, the values of sharing and justice and by offering medical assistance.
After listening to the testimonies of two African migrants, it was with a declaration of love that the Pope wished to begin his speech: “Since the day I visited Lampedusa, [Editor’s note: at the very beginning of his pontificate in 2013] I have not forgotten you. You are always in my heart and in my prayers.”
Quoting the Acts of the Apostles, he then recalled the particular vocation of Malta, whose tradition of welcoming people goes back to the time of St Paul. After being shipwrecked, the Apostle was taken in with “a rare humanity” by the people of the time. “It is my hope that that is how Malta will always treat those who land on its shores,” insisted the head of the Catholic Church.
The Pope then highlighted the often tragic nature of crossings in the Mediterranean. He cited the case of a shipwreck that occurred the day before off the coast of Libya. More broadly, he also mentioned the case of refugees fleeing the “savage” war in Ukraine, but also those who leave their land in Africa, America and Asia. He also mentioned the Rohingyas in particular.
Authorities complicit in the violation of migrants’ human rights
Peter’s successor warned of another shipwreck that could occur if humanity continues to ignore the drama of migrants: “the shipwreck of civilization.” He repeated twice that the fundamental rights of millions of migrants are regularly violated, “sometimes unfortunately with the complicity of authorities.”
In order to avoid this disaster, he said that people should approach the phenomenon of migration by “regarding people not merely as statistics,” that is, “people” and “stories”, “brothers and sisters.” It is therefore necessary for everyone to put themselves in the place of these migrants and imagine that “it could be any one of us, or our sons or daughters.”
The reality of migration is a “sign of the times when civilization is at stake.” And for Christians, the Pope insisted, “it is also a question of fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus who said: ‘I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.'”
The Pope’s dream for migrants
Addressing the refugees in particular, he entrusted them with a “dream”. May you “who are migrants, after having received a welcome rich in human kindness and fraternity, will become in turn witnesses and agents of welcome and fraternity,” he said.
For the pontiff, the wounds of uprooting, once healed, can become a “very precious heritage” for humanity. He thus invited them to be witnesses today of “essential human values for a dignified and fraternal life.”