From the moment we got off the plane until leaving the island again Fr Marcus and I were constantly moved, challenged, and surprised by what we heard and saw.
Firstly we met with Sig. Franco Tuccio in his studio, where he had created the Lampedusa Cross, made out of refugee boat wood. Franco was clearly deeply motivated to use his art to draw the world's attention to the plight of thousands of refugees who enter Europe through this island. People are picked up at sea and are rescued from drowning and snatched from the jaws of death to be given a new start. This cross he made will lie on the altar of the Anglican Centre in Rome as witness to their suffering and the Easter hope which is now being offered to them.
We then went to the Lampedusa cemetery, which includes the grave and story of Welela, a young African woman who had been burned alive while being trafficked. There are hundreds and hundreds of people like her whose names we will never know, who have disappeared without trace in the Mediterranean Sea. The people of the island of Lampedusa try to honour their memory in a portion of the cemetery dedicated to the unknown. The people of the island have shown enormous compassion to both the living and the dead - as stories of their welcome to every new batch of migrants rescued from the sea tell.
At several points during the day we had in-depth discussion with Luca Maria Negro, the President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, who have partnered with our friends and colleagues in Rome, the Sant' Egidio Community, to create Mediterranean Hope, a project which not only looks after those who have arrived in Italy, but is working to create 'humanitarian corridors' which enables refugees to find legitimate safe passage rather than risking their lives on the open sea.
Our conversation naturally explored what Anglican networks might be doing in this area, and the potential for further collaboration. For example, establishing links with the Anglican Alliance.
Throughout the day we were accompanied by the remarkable Don Mimmo, the island's Catholic priest. He is clearly at the moral and pastoral heart of the island's community and is clearly the hub of the local response to what is an extra-ordinary situation. He was known and greeted and chatted with and welcomed by almost everyone we met. We are so grateful to Monica Attias of Sant' Egidio of Rome for putting us in touch with him. He would welcome Anglican prayer and support.
Lampedusa is the site of so much desperation - but also so much redemption. Only an Easter faith makes any sense on Lampedusa.
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