Meeting ‘the real flesh of Christ’ amid suffering and hope in Lampedusa

The Irish News – one of Northern Ireland’s three daily newspapers – carried two articles on refugees in its Faith Matter section today.

The first by Alan Meban (who manages the Focus on Refugees website and social media) begins by quoting Dom Carmelo, the Catholic priest on the island of Lampedusa, who spent time with the CTBI delegation which visited earlier this month. He referred to encountering ‘the real flesh of Christ’ when he met the migrants arriving on the island. He also referred to the team’s visit to Mediterranean Hope’s Cast delle Culture on the island of Sicily.

I asked the local Methodist President why the centre had been opened in Scicli, a small nondescript town that wasn’t on the coast and several hours away from an airport.

“We accepted the challenge,” was his simple answer. When the denomination had received a call after the events of October 3, his congregation didn’t know how to decline.

Damian Jackson from Irish Council of Churches also added his thoughts on the hope he found amidst the horror of the journeys through Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea refugees recounted.

Standing on that quay, I felt both a sense of helplessness at the enormity of the forces at play which lead to so much suffering. But I also felt real hope because of the power of a small number of committed people.

They were prepared to say ‘yes’ and daily they touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the continent while also challenging those in positions of power with a demonstration that there is a better way.