“Each one of you, dear friends, has a life story that speaks to us of the tragedies of war, of conflicts that are all too often linked to international politics. Yet, above all, every one of you bears a wealth of humanity and a religious sense, treasures to welcome rather than to fear. Many of you are Muslim or members of another religion. You come from various countries, from different situations. We mustn’t be afraid of differences! Fraternity enables us to discover that they are riches, gifts for everyone! Let us live in fraternity!”
With these words, Pope Francis addressed the refugees in Centro Astalli’s soup kitchen, back in 2013. Centro Astalli is the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy and one of the first projects that Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ set up in the early 1980s.
At the same gathering, Carol, a refugee woman from Syria who had just arrived in Italy, explained: “Syrians in Europe feel very strongly the responsibility of not being a burden. We want to be actively involved in a new society. We want to offer our help, and the skills and knowledge we bring with us, as well as our culture, in the building of a more just and hospitable society toward those who, like us, flee war and persecution. We adults can still bear more suffering, if this serves to guarantee a future of peace for our children. We ask that they may be able to go to school and grow up in a peaceful environment.”