–– Sito di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA –– Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa A missionary look on the life of the world and the church –– VIDA y MISIÓN – VIE et MISSION – VIDA e MISSÃO ––
Five thousand young people abandon the state of the Horn of Africa each month, where the United Nations has sounded the alarm for the lack of rights. Both the devout and the laity are asking Europe to act. And the mobilization is also coming on the web (Davide Maggiore. vaticaninsider, 08/ 6/2015)
“When mentioning Eritrea, we talk only about people who are coming to Europe, but not about what they are fleeing from – the local government, the decisions that are being made on their skin. And the lack of information leads to fear and intolerance…” Father Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean Catholic priest, has long been known for his mobilization on behalf of migrants arriving in Italy: for this he is also a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Committed to people of all nationalities, he has continued, however, to look at what is happening to his fellow citizens (in 2014 second only to the Syrians for number of arrivals in Italy: over 34,000) remaining in their country of origin.
For this, together with journalist Vittorio Longhi and lawyer Anton Giulio Lana, he has promoted, through the platform change.org, an online petition, which has already collected more than 4,000 signatures. Not a few, for a country so little known that it is often – stereotypically – compared to North Korea. The goal of the initiative, explains Longhi, who also wrote a report on Eritrea for the New York Times, “is to address the causes of forced migration and to avoid the hell of the journey from the Horn of Africa to Europe, the deaths in the desert or in the Mediterranean, by expanding the debate on the driving factors and the role of international diplomacy, while not limiting ourselves solely to discussion or acting only on measures for reception.” This is why the appeal asks the European Commission to make a grant of 300 million euros of development aid – currently under discussion – in true respect for human rights and democratic rules, a theme also raised in June from a UN report.
Systematic violations of fundamental freedoms, the repression of any and all dissent, no election (the former guerrilla leader Isaias Afewerki has been in power in Asmara since 1993), a compulsory military service that is extended for years turning into forced labor, a surveillance system so capillary as to bring anyone under suspicion as a potential spy. These are the main conclusions of the UN document (here a summary, in English) which also gives account of the mass escape from this hopeless situation: about 5,000 people per month, according to estimates, leave the country clandestinely. Young people like Michael [not his real name, ed], who arrived two months ago in Italy after three attempts to escape: for him, forced into de facto ‘national service’ indefinitely, fulfilling even the simplest wish – to become a mechanic – has proved impossible.
The exodus of Eritrean youth is a wound that the local bishops, defying the regime’s propaganda, had already denounced last year, in a pastoral letter entitled “Where is your brother?” And against this backdrop, Europe’s role is increasingly important, since for nearly two years, another route of emigration, which – between suffering and abuse at the hands of traffickers – led the Eritreans into Israel, has become completely impractical.
“We need safe channels, from transit countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia: these people place their hope in the international community to avoid falling into the hands of traffickers,” says Sister Azezet Kidane, an Eritrean missionary who assists migrants in Tel Aviv. “We as the religious can do something to restore the confidence and dignity of people, but the European activists for human rights should put pressure on their governments to take action,” she adds. “Solidarity, from all,” Father Zerai notes in turn, “is the first thing that you can put in into practice – even little things would be enough: a phone card, a change of clothes … But volunteer activities can only stem the emergency and it is the government that must assume its task: the reception of refugees can be guaranteed only by institutions, not by individuals.”
“So far,” he admits, “what we have seen is not encouraging: Europe seems unable to make decisions, not even on the placing of 35,000 refugees.” The hope of the priest is that it will be the Bishop of Rome, who has repeatedly intervened on this issue, to help raise awareness and encourage political decisions: “Pope Francis,” he concludes, “is doing a lot on this front; I hope that in the institutions, ears and hearts will be found attentive to his calls…”