While we are still celebrating Christmas and welcoming the new year, our thought is with those who, following the star of hope for a better life, have lost their lives. With those who lose it every day because of our indifference and injustice. During these last days, twenty more people died off the Turkish coast. Seven of them were children. They were traveling on a plastic boat, similar to the toys of the lucky children who have spent the same hours in joy, celebrating the birth of Jesus in many homes, with pomp, banned tables and merry lights.
Over 4 thousand people have lost their lives in our seas this year. Over 10,000 children died in Syria, in five years of so-called civil war, which in truth is fomented by foreign countries. Many of these countries are happily gathered in their families during these holidays, exchanging gifts, while over 12 million Syrians are hungry and 12 million more had to flee, leave their homes, affections, some of them have even lost their lives along the journeys of hope, like Mary and Joseph did to give birth to Jesus. Two thirds of the population survive with no drinking water.
Millions of children are today in the many “Cribs” around the world, whom we do not show nor look at. “in the freezing cold” of the natural climate or of our conscience, frozen by our convenience and love of comfort, indifference, and selfishness due to atrophy of love. Over 200 million children under five years of age suffer from malnutrition in the world. Every year, at least 3 million children die of hunger. Over one million refugees have sought asylum in Europe in 2015. Every day, about 30,000 children die. Even today, even on Christmas. And, according to the data provided by the Association “Save the Children”, in Italy, a minor out of three lives in conditions of poverty.
Currently, there are over 8 million poor Italians. About 3 million families. Jesus was poor as well. He was a migrant and a refugee in search of asylum. Pope Francis has reminded us, Christians, about it more than once. Our morality and sensitivity is schizophrenic. We kiss devotedly the feet of the statue of the Child Jesus in the precious Crib in the living room of our homes. We show it to our guests with pride and vanity, then we close the doors in the face of the many Jesuses, children, teenagers, adults, and elderly who knock at the doors of our houses and hearts, on the streets of the world.
“Overcome indifference and conquer peace” is the title of the message Pope Francis launched on the World Day of Peace, celebrated on the first day of the year. “There are many reasons to believe in the ability of humanity to act together in solidarity, in recognition of its interconnection and interdependence, taking to heart the most fragile members and safeguarding the common good”, Pope Francis writes.
On the first Christmas of his pontificate, during the Angelus on the occasion of the Holy Family, on 27 December, Pope Bergoglio said that “on the painful way of exile, in search of shelter in Egypt, Joseph, Mary and Jesus experienced the tragic condition of being refugees, marked by fear, uncertainty, and discomfort”. The Holy Family of Nazareth was fleeing from a death sentence, from violence and abuse as well. To give birth to the Son of God, Mary and Joseph faced a difficult, risky, tiring, and painful journey, and looked for shelter abroad. They traveled on a donkey instead of a barge. Their means were different, but not their status.
Our Lady gave birth alone with her husband in a cave. But how many “caves” like this are scattered around the world today? Palestinian refugees, for example, who have been living an entire life of precarious situation in their souls for almost seventy years, since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict started, after the State of Israel was created at the negotiating table, whereas the State of Palestine has not received legitimate recognition yet. There are over 5 million refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, West Bank, Syria, and Gaza Strip.
“Jesus is passing by”, we sing in our Churches. The Christ calls, Jesus is knocking on the doors of our hearts and that of our consciences every time a woman, a man, a child, a girl, an elderly man or woman ask for our help, even if they do so only with a silent gaze, launching a heartfelt cry with their very existence. Desperate cries which are the crying of the newborn Jesus. All too often we suffocate it with other sounds and noises. Let Emmanuel be truly born in our hearts and open the eyes of everyone’s soul on His living face, which is the face, be it beautiful or ugly, friendly or unknown, of all those people who need help, comfort, a caress, bread, to drink, a blanket, and an embrace, all those people who ask for justice or peace.
During the days of Eve, a beautiful image of a Crib in the Puglia region went viral on social media. The Crib was natural size and it had an empty Manger, ready to receive the icon of the Child Jesus on the night of Christmas. At sunset, a stray dog nestled there to sleep. A marvelous image, which recalls the concrete nature of this Christian recurrence. It is not a popular festivity, it is not the beautiful, elegantly decorated, Crib. It is winning love, which triumphs in our homes, in our families, among peoples and nations of our fatigued and sore world. It is Jesus who passes by, it is Jesus who knocks, it is Jesus who invites us to a life in love and by love, for a year and an existence which are really new, under the banner of concrete, lived, authentic, Christian brotherhood.