I have just come back from my latest stay in Bangladesh to monitor the developments of our MOAS mission in SE Asia to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the current influx from Myanmar into Bangladesh, where the Inter Sector Coordination Group recorded more than 655,000 arrivals as of December 14th.
Over the last 4 years I have spent most of the time far from my home, on board the Phoenix for our SAR missions, in Bangladesh to support both Rohingya and local host communities that are giving us a great lesson of solidarity, as well as around the world to spread the MOAS message and bear witness to our commitment to supporting the most vulnerable people.
During the Christmas holidays I can finally hug my daughter Maria Luisa and my husband Christopher. When I go back to our family routine, I recall the many people met on board the Phoenix after rescuing them at sea, together with those met in our Aid Stations in Bangladesh where we assist a growing number of patients. I wonder what “home” means, what “Christmas” means. We can all give a different definition of “home”: a tent made of plastic and bamboo, an ultramodern building in a capital city, a house in the countryside if inside there are people who love each other.
But what does Christmas mean? At least we should all agree on a definition consistent with its message of brotherhood, welcome, prayer and solidarity. When I look at the shop windows filled with material goods, with thousands of shining lights, I recall the memories of the vessels in distress we used to assist just before a shipwreck, the makeshift camps where newly-arrived Rohingya fleeing Myanmar join those who had previously escaped and local host communities. I recall the faces of children, women and men who got close to death to be safe.
While awaiting the miracle of Christmas, I feel responsible for the loss of human lives that could not be rescued in the sea of indifference and in the silence of inaction. I ask myself: what’s the price of human life? Can we give it a price? Can we get discouraged by bureaucratic obstacles to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need?
My answer is NO!
Christmas should be every day. In our gestures, in our smiles, in helping the most vulnerable, in welcoming those who suffer we experience again the sacrifice of the son of God who came to Earth to save us. This year I didn’t have time to set up a nativity scene at my house, but it is always in my heart together with the people rescued in the Mediterranean and the Aegean, the Rohingya of all ages met in the camps, the young Bangladeshi fisherman treated by our medical staff.
Let’s remember the last ones, those who suffer, the poor and vulnerable people during this holiday season, and let’s prevent Christmas lights from overshadowing the priorities of life, which fundamentally concern life itself and its safeguarding. Let’s remember Pope Francis’ appeal to keep a restless heart and not to live in bubbles of soap, which are beautiful, but mean nothing. Let’s remember that, beyond our problems and even if we do not have all we would like to, we are much luckier than many other people forced to suffer from cold, hunger and fear.
Do not forget those who die because of easily treatable diseases in Yemen, those who dream of freedom in a Libyan detention centre, those who walk in the mud along the path of salvation between Myanmar and Bangladesh, those who are in danger, but also those who devote their life with no holidays or vacation to make this world a more welcoming place, such as our MOAS team.
No dress will ever be as beautiful as the smile of a mother who found safety for her children. No present will be as precious as a medicine given to a person in urgent need.
Let’s focus on giving this Christmas: make a donation and be aware that every donation will make a difference between life and death for an innocent and vulnerable person!
Help us to help them!