Mediterranean Hope: new sea rescue collaboration by Italian churches

The Council of the FCEI (the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy) has agreed to expand the work of their refugee and migrant programme Mediterranean Hope with a new strand of activity that will support organisations that undertake this humanitarian work and participate in search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea.

A team from CTBI visited Mediterranean Hope projects in Sicily and Lampedusa last April. We heard about the team’s welcome for refugees stepping off rescue vessels onto the quayside of Lampedusa harbour, providing blankets, food and warm drinks before buses took the newly arrived to the out-of-town registration centre.

FCEI President Pastor Luca Maria Negro explains:

“In taking this decision, FCEI stands by the proposition that rescues in international waters of refugees who are escaping desperate conditions of persecution, violence and torture is not a crime but, on the contrary, a moral duty which, for us as Christians, has deep-rooted Biblical and theological justification.”

The decision follows a successful trial with Mediterranean Hope team members working with NGO Proactiva, whose boat Open Arms facilitated the rescue of more than 200 people.

The FCEI President referenced the judicial impounding of the Open Arms vessel and expressed solidarity with those “who have the courage to undertake maritime search and rescue activity in the name of the right to life and protection of refugees in a gravely vulnerable state”.

“We are driven by Biblical and humanitarian grounds. In the face of thousands of refugees saved in recent months, solidarity and sea rescue should not be criminalised.”

He expressed his confidence that “Proactiva can show that it has operated solely for humanitarian ends and within the confines of international maritime law.”