THE POPE EXPECTS MORE ANSWERS
The original first visit which Pope Francis made to Lampedusa took place on July 8th 2013. For many people it was a great surprise. The visit had indeed the hallmarks of great spontaneity.
The Pope’s message was strong on needed increased charity and it was directed to all the faithful in general.
Did Pope Francis get the answers he expected?
Recently the Holy Father has wrote a mental “Revisit to Lampedusa”. That by itself suggests that more answers were and are still expected.
That we have not seen many public suggestions for improved help to the immigrants and refugees is however understandable.
On questions of immigration our general public is tired and feels abused by its political leaders. The experience if 40 years European neglect in governing immigration (note 1 ) is unbearable. Speculations of political parties on broadening their electoral basis for aggrandizement, added insult to the injury.
Our Christian public is also wary of hearing so often the reproach: “Kain, where is your brother? What have you done to Abel?” But in matters of immigration not only one brother is suffering, the immigrant. There is the other brother, often forgotten, the local, “autochtonic” citizen, who lives in a suburb and sees his surroundings, his savings, his cultural life style, and even the safety of his family damaged and in further danger.
Could addressing the faithful in a more differentiated way, according to their talents, their particular vocations, their active implication procure more and better answers? After all, among the faithful there are many able people with capacities in problem solving. If they were invited by name or by category they would know that their thoughts would be welcome. Then perhaps at some time we might succeed in making Lampedusa’s altogether superfluous .
An increased open dialogue between hierarchy and laity, bishops and faithful could take the form which one might formulate as follows :
Bishops invite the laity to the Gospel;
the laity invite bishops to geopolitics.
“Geopolitics” would of course include the abilities of political leaders, entrepreneurs, bankers, military officers, medical doctors, economists, lawyers, diplomats, systems analysts and others in the many lay organizations, as well as historians and philosophers (the bishops will bring their own)
In a more structured approach “ Lampedusa” could be discussed in greater depth.
Even the question whether there should be any Lampedusa in Europe, might then be addressed. Why not a few “Lampedusa’s” (reception centers) on the north coast of Africa, or better still deeper into the African continent near upcoming centers of economic growth , where labor opportunities may be created under prudent governance also open to migrants and refugees?
On suggestions to achieve more growth in Africa the World Bank and others have not remained silent either: bigger ports, broader markets encompassing not only single countries (often cut up by old artificial borders without attention to ethnicity) could help achieve growth and employment opportunities.
The example of Libya shows that even a single country sometimes might be important enough to act as a pole of growth, permitting migrants from a wide region to find employment. In Libya the oil industry made that growth possible. But what did we do? We destroyed Libya in an ill-considered military adventure, and so this particular alternative to Lampedusa was lost for some time.
History brings errors and regrets. Right now France is doing an admirable job in keeping the Sahara belt which harbors several potential conflict centers apart and in relative peace. (note 2 ) Other European countries should help the French who have the local knowledge and the aptitudes, but who have less means than in the past to sustain their great service to the two continents of Africa and Europe.
If a structured dialogue on “Lampedusa alternatives” could be stimulated, perhaps the malaise of shared sacrifice and suffering by the overburdened faithful could make place for a more joyful participation in a joined struggle for a better world.
In this context the new dangers to Christians in the near and Middle East need special attention. From that area the stream of refugees to Europe may well increase further. Any temporary help will thus be welcome, but the long term objective in keeping the millennia-old original Christian element in that area present should always be kept as essential in our strategy. (note 3 )
This will need greater European effort in statecraft and diplomacy with African and Near Eastern countries. Lay organization may join in promoting that effort. And the level of our military budgets may also have to be increased, without necessarily being tied to command structures in NATO or the European Union. The sharp budget reductions of the last decades should be reversed.
Migration will be more acceptable if it gets some “circular” characteristics according to the life stage of the migrants, returning at some time to their country of origin either for establishing an enterprise when they are young, or for retirement when they get older and want to be with families and friends.
If the present stream of refugees of Christian from the Near East should continue, we must make sure the “circular element” in their fortunes be kept intact , making possible the return to their rights and to their salutary work in the Near East. “Oeuvre de l’Orient” and sister organizations in other countries will have much practical work to do.
Meanwhile Kosovo Metohija, origin and former province of Serbia, have taught us in Europe that the Near East with its increased dangers for Christians is closer to us than we ever thought possible. The need to keep Christianity anchored in Kosovo-Metohija must be assured. (Note 4 )
Sister ship relations between dioceses like recently created between Lyon and Mossoul may enrich the pattern of lay forces at work. The very implementation of their programs and experience will already generate additional expert answers to the annual Lampedusa calls of the Holy Father. Continuing to “revisit Lampedusa”, Pope Francis will be the great promoter of a more structured joint effort.
Next year, by July 8th 2015 the Pope deserves a richer harvest of our best ideas.
Anton Smitsendonk (Note 5 )
==================== N O T E S = =====================
<1> Christopher Caldwell “Reflexions on the Revolution in Europe”. Penguin Books It is an excellent factual well-reasoned description of what happened over a long time in Europe. It is also a tremendous accusation of Europe’s political class.
<2> Other countries may have good Africanists, but France has its own Bernard Lugan,
<3> Message of H.B.Louis Raphaël Ier Sako, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans to H.Eminence Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon and Primate of Gaul 26 July 2014 « La chrétienté d’Orient ne doit pas disparaître. Sa disparition serait un péché mortel et une grande perte pour l’Église et pour l’humanité. «
On their return from a mission to Iraq Cardinal Barbarin and Mons Gollnisch, President of OEUVRE DE L:ORIENT have emphasized that absence of refugees from Irak should never be considered as definitive. This will mean that in the temporary host countries and at international levels efforts must be made to document the assets which refugees have left behind and that instruments may be created to keep claims of the refugees valid. Again a practical work on which much has to be done by all “partners in geopolitics” in some activated form of cooperation
<4> With Kosovo Metohija recollections of this author go back to his very first diplomatic posting in Beograd in the time still of Tito (who as a Croat neglected the Kosovo problems which were mostly of interest to the Serbs). During the 1990’s war in Yugoslavia I sought a moment to involve the Benedictine order in Europe to send observer-guests to “orthodox” Kosovo monasteries partly as a sign of solidarity but also for the practical benefit that western observers could warn the world at large in case the muslims should make further attacks. The Abbey of Chevetogne in Belgium (which in other times professed a special vocation to engage the byzantine Christian world ) – did not see a possibility to follow up that idea, perhaps held back also by feelings of suspicion to which Orthodox clergy is still often a prisoner. Yet I presume in the Middle Ages an abbot like Saint Bernard would with eloquence have drummed up wide European interest for such a plan of west-east outreach.
Fortunately we see since about 10 years similar initiative like the French NGO “Solidarite Kosovo” helping the orthodox monastery of Visoki Decani in Kosovo to build a wall of three meters high and 2 1/2 km length around the monastery in order to give better protection against recurring armed attack from the albanian population. “Solidarity Kosovo” does other wonderful projects in order to keep the Serbian isolated families and particularly the children in good mental condition by sports and traveling activities. < See http://www.solidarite-kosovo.org/ >
<5 > Dr Anton G.O. Smitsendonk, former Netherlands Ambassador
– Chairman of China Carbon Forum, a Beijing, China, platform for discussions on environment, energy, and on protection against climate change.
– Chairman of AFACO, Association Franco-Africaine de Codeveloppement, a French NGO promoting French-African Co-development; National Commissioner for Thailand and for Indonesia in ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Organization