Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me

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I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me
Carolyn Aflague Arroyo. MIMS student

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me. I assure you, as often as you did it for the least among you, you did it for me." — Matthew 25:35-40

As a Master in Migration Studies student, I search for answers to understand the root causes of migration, explore the history and places of those that are displaced and marginalized, and examine the reasons for this global crisis. Which crisis would you ask? Some may say it is a refugee crisis. I will take direction from Pope Francis as he has called the current situation “‘a crisis of solidarity’, more than a refugee crisis’”.

When I decided to enroll in USF’s AGI Rome program, I knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience. It would be my first time travelling outside of the U.S. and I wanted to challenge myself to learn in a different environment and under a different program. We would have the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom visiting NGO’s and NPO’s in Rome such as Centro Astalli and Save the Children that work with refugees. I was eager to learn about services that were offered in Rome, and more specifically learn more about the Jesuit Refugee Services and their mission for supporting refugees and migrants.

After experiencing the beauty of Rome’s rich history and culture, I realized how its beauty masks the ugly reality of the negative sentiments towards migrants and refugees. After meeting with organizations, participating in tours that focused on showing a different side of Rome, hearing stories shared by refugees, and seeing the Pope and listening to his message, it was clear that Italy was in crisis. Pope Francis’ commitment to center migration has brought awareness to the difference between a refugee crisis and a crisis of solidarity. The importance of establishing meaningful relationships and solidarity with each other at every level: between neighbors; communities; organizations; and countries is vital to solve this crisis. Why are we creating borders instead of bridges? Our class had the opportunity to meet with Father Fabio Baggio who works specifically with matters regarding migrants and refugees under the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He brought light to the question: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus let thousands of people die in the sea? Would he create walls to keep hungry children from being fed or from safety? I am thankful that I was able to experience this program alongside 20 other USF students. By the end of the course, we built community and solidarity with one another. Moving forward as we each walk in different directions, I have confidence that we will keep our hearts open in our work and build the bridges that are needed for solidarity. May we welcome all strangers.