‘What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?’

Pope Francis Responds during a Meeting with Young People of Scholas Occurrentes

dar vida refugiado
Encuentro con jóvenes de Scholas Occurrentes, 25 nov. 2021 © Vatican Media

“What can a refugee’s life give me?, asked Pope Francis in his meeting with young people of Scholas Occurrentes. The Holy Father answered the questions posed and reflected also on the importance of not losing the “capacity of encounter with the other,” on the migratory crisis and the grave situation of refugees in the “concentration camps” in Lebanon’s coast. He also asked for an end of violence against women, who are “sold as merchandise.”

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?On the afternoon of November 25, 2021, the Pope went to Rome’s Maria Mater Ecclesiae International Pontifical College, where he met with young people ranging in age from 16 to 27, from 41 countries and five Continents, taking part on the Fratelli Tutti Political School, organized by the Scholas Foundation, stated a note of the Holy See Press Office.

The young people belonged to different cultures and religious Confessions and came from different socio-economic backgrounds: refugees, asylum seekers, students of prestigious Universities, and young people excluded from the educational system.

“The Faces of the Pandemic”

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?According to “Vatican News,” the Bishop of Rome talked with the young people about the world they imagine, about how to convert their perspective into concrete actions to be put into practice on their return to their countries, and how the pandemic has generated a new awareness in them.

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?In his off-the-cuff words, the Successor of Peter encouraged the young people not to lose “that capacity of encounter with the other,” otherwise the risk is run of being fossilized. In other words, “the soul becomes fossilized, the heart gets fossilized and we fall into what is socially correct, which are starched or hard gestures without originality. And when originality is lacking, it’s like assuaging thirst with distilled water — try it, it has no taste.”

In order to fight against this, His Holiness suggested the way of creativity, which is what stimulates one. “Creativity is a risk, it’s a risk, but a community without creativity is a mask like this one [there were masks in the room] all have not only their face uniform but also their heart.”

“And when feelings are extinguished, interior emotions are extinguished, one does what is ordered, one does what is prescribed, one does what everyone does socially, and then one loses one’s personality,” he added.

The Drama of Refugees and the Sale of Women

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?After listening to the testimony of Austen, a young refugee from Rwanda who fled with his family after the 1994 genocide, and then went to the Congo, and has now been received by the Scholas Occurrentes network, Pope Francis lamented once again the drama of refugees, “victims of rejection and indifference,” which continues to spread before everyone’s eyes.

“The condition of refugees always means that one has left his place, his homeland, and started out because of a need. Your parents lived Rwanda’s horrendous genocide and, from the Congo, you saw the need to escape, to come out, let’s say, from a tragedy, from a prison, from something that didn’t let you live as a free man. The refugees that risked their life by escaping (and they risk it in the Mediterranean, in the Aegean Sea, in the Atlantic on the way to the Canaries) those refugees have only one obsession: to get out,” he said.

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?The Holy Father also talked about the terrible situation people live in, being obliged to leave their countries seeking refuge and ending up in what we can call “concentration camps.” They are present in many parts of the world, and he referred specifically to the Libyan coast, where refuges are seized, tortured, and exploited by mafias, who then sell the women as if they were merchandise.

“You, who are women, can you imagine what it is to be sold as merchandise? This is happening today to girls like you. When we speak of refugees let’s not speak of numbers; let’s speak of brothers and sisters who had to escape and some were unable to do so. It is the traffickers that embark them and then receive them when they are returned. It’s a very harsh experience; to be a refugee is to walk without safe ground, to walk without knowing where you are going,” stressed the Pope.

“What Can a Refugee’s Life Give Me?”

In this connection, the Holy Father exhorted the young people to go out and encounter these suffering people, putting aside their ego, and not falling into the psychology of indifference. “The life of a refugee is very hard . . . It’s to live in the street, but not in one’s street, but in life’s street where you are ignored, trampled, treated as if you are nothing. Hence, we must open our hearts to the life of refugees. They’re not people who come to tour in another country, they did not escape for commercial reasons, but they escaped to be able to live, risking their lives to be able to live.”

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?“With this, I don’t mean that you should torture yourselves, but that you reflect, think of your brothers, of your sisters and ask yourselves: What can a refugee’s life give me? What example can he give me? He asked.

Finally, the Successor of Peter took his leave, imparting his Blessing and encouraging all to learn to “escape from the prisons” that pre-determined social habits offer, to escape from what is “socially correct.” “At times they imprison you with behavior that starches you, that hinders your feelings. I ask each one of you young people: “Do you let your feelings grow to discern them later, or do you stifle them? If you stifle your feelings they will explode, and they will explode badly, in the social behaviors we are witnessing every day. Instead, if you express your feelings, you have the obligation to discern and confront them. That will bring them to maturity,” he explained.

“Fratelli Tutti” Political School

The participants presented the Pontiff their Fratelli Tutti” Political School, a project inspired in the Holy Father’s Encyclical, and the first course in which fifty young people will take part for a year of human and political formation inspired in the Encyclical, with the objective of giving an answer that is in keeping with the times and integrator of the peripheries.

What Can A Refugee’s Life Give Me?This School, launched in the Vatican last May 20, seeks to build an international community of young politicians of different regions, cultures, and beliefs, with the vocation to create a new politics inspired in the pursuit of the Common Good, able to transform the lives of people and of their surroundings, describes Sholas Occurrentes.

Thus Pope Francis gave the first class of the Fratelli Tutti Political School, stimulated and guided by Scholas Occurrentes’ pedagogic proposal and the technical competencies contributed by the “Lead with Common Sense” Foundation. The academic year will combine virtual and face-to-face sessions. In the latter, different cases will be studied of problems posed by the young people of Mozambique, Argentina, Haiti, Italy, and Rumania. This first class will learn to listen to the concrete problems that young people and their communities suffer, to then seek creative solutions together with them.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester