Lutherans in Italy call for compassion to end migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea

More than 250 migrants have drowned since the beginning of 2019 as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to escape poverty and violence. Photo: Óglaigh na hÉireann
More than 250 migrants have drowned since the beginning of 2019 as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to escape poverty and violence. Photo: Óglaigh na hÉireann

Church leaders say Christians cannot ‘look the other way’

(LWI) - The Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Italy (CELI) has called for greater solidarity and compassion to end the tragedy of migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea.

In a statement published on 21 January, Pastor Heiner Bludau, Dean of the CELI, said he was left “speechless” when he heard the news that 117 people had perished after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya.

A further 53 migrants died over the weekend in the sea between Spain and Morocco, he noted, yet these tragedies were barely mentioned in the media. If that same number of people from European countries had died, he added, “we would see an avalanche of reports on the television and in the newspapers, reactions and reflections on how to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.”

Can we still claim to be civilized people if we look the other way?
Pastor Heiner Bludau, Dean of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Italy

Since 2015, the statement said, around 15,000 migrants have died as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean to escape from war and poverty. “What difference is there between us and those on rubber dinghies seeking entry into Europe”, Pastor Bludau continued. “Can we still claim to be civilized people if we look the other way,” he asked?

Of the 120 people who were on board the overcrowded dinghy off the Libyan coast, only three survived after being pulled out of the icy water by an Italian military helicopter. The victims included ten women and two children.

Pastor Bludau said this latest tragedy took place on 18 January, the first day of the week of prayer for Christian unity, focused this year on the theme of searching for justice. The deaths of these 253 people, he said, raise questions that we, as Christians, are obliged to confront.

CELI’s head of Diakonia, Daniela Barbuscia, echoed those concerns, adding that the disaster “could have been avoided” if the NGO boats patrolling the Mediterranean had not been blocked by “politics that are without compassion.”

The CELI, which is a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), includes 15 local communities with about 7,000 members. Together with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), and with the help of funds from supporters in Germany, it runs a number of programmes providing services for migrants and other people in need.

 

Photo by Óglaigh na hÉireann. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.