I felt an immense, indescribable joy: the joy that human person feels when he observes the dream of God fulfilled, that is, that all people form a single large family, in which no one is discarded, excluded, unwanted, shares Don Mattia.
Our mission on the Ionian Sea reached its climax on Thursday 9 May 2019. At around 4:30 pm, we spotted a damaged boat with 30 migrants on board. Our team immediately took action to help, and the adrenaline that gradually increased in our veins. I will never forget the moment in which we sighted the boat, and when we progressively approached it. Arriving near the vessel, the faces of those people became visible, and it was a very strong spectacle: they were prostrate, desperate, terrified. Mr Maso Notarianni, who was in charge of approaching them first, asked: "Where do you come from?". The response of those people shouted with excruciating pain in the voice, was: "From the hell!", referring to Libya. Among them were two pregnant women, a family with a two-year-old girl, Alima, and four unaccompanied minors. They had left Libya for more than thirteen hours, the engine was faulty, and the dinghy was drifting: if they had not been rescued by us, they would have gone to certain death. We then started the transhipments of the castaways on the Ionian Sea. We offered them drinks and food and started the identification procedures. In the same time, our precious medical staff led by Dr Guido Di Stefano and by nurse Alessandro Fanari attended the most seriously wounded.
In the meantime, we reported the rescue to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome and asked them to indicate a safe harbour while en route to Lampedusa, the nearest safe one, as required by international law. After drinking and eating something, the rescued migrant people regained some strength and realising that they had been saved, they started singing, praying, dancing. A great celebration of life and of the one great human family united in universal brotherhood was born. It was impressive: there were people who came from various African countries and Bangladesh and professed different religions (some were Catholics, other Pentecostals, other Muslims) and they were joined by the various crew members who came from various cities and from very heterogeneous cultural and ideological belonging.
That night I experienced how true what Pope Francis says is when he says that we must let ourselves be evangelised by the poor: we experience it many times in places where fraternity is lived with the least of the world and we have experienced it very well on the night of the rescue. The big hug that united us all that night was a wonderful picture of humanity. At that moment we all felt in our hearts how life is a gift and how really before the various geographical, social, cultural, ideological, religious affiliations, there is a single great belonging, that of the human family, and we tasted how beautiful it is to discover ourselves members of this great family, called to love and take care of other human beings as brothers and sisters.
In such situations our life finds meaning. That night I felt an immense, indescribable joy: the joy that man feels when he sees the dream of God fulfilled, that is, that all men form a single large family, in which no one is discarded, excluded, unwanted. That night I saw an advance of Heaven.
I am infinitely grateful to Mediterranea, to my travel companions and to the migrant people that we have helped for showing me the realisation of God's dream about the world. I would like every person who lives on Earth to experience the beauty of being a single human family united in universal brotherhood as we experienced it that night.
I feel a similar joy when I see the universal fraternity realised in the mission on earth: when in the communities, in the social centres and in other realities I see the last, the excluded, as true brothers and sisters and I see that together with them we live the love and justice and fraternity are built. These scenes are the seeds of the civilisation of love, they are the presence of the Kingdom of God among us of which Jesus spoke to us. All men, and in particular those who profess to be Christians, have the task of extending this civilisation of love, building it day after day in one's life.
The joy of life that the rescued people unleashed, their embracing each individual present on board, of any geographical, religious and cultural origin, as a brother and sister, they are looking ahead with confidence and hope despite all that they had gone through, their not bringing anger inside despite having suffered atrocious wickedness, their determination to challenge the boundaries unjustly set by human authorities... all of this has been a great lesson for us. On the night of the rescue, we of the crew had a clear awareness: even though it is we who saved those people by snatching them from death at sea, in reality, they are the ones who saved us.
This an excerpt from the book "The People's Fishermen", which has just been published the Italian publisher Garzanti. The book is available in Italian. All the translation rights for this excerpt are reserved for The Owner.
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