(Vatican Radio) Led by the community of Saint Egidio and together with other faith-based organizations and groups who care for refugees and forced migrants, the city of Rome gathers in prayer on Thursday evening for a vigil to remember the tens of thousands of people who have died trying to reach Europe in hope of safety and a future.
The UN Migration Agency reports that over 82,000 migrants, including refugees, have entered Europe by sea so far this year, with 85 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided among Greece, Cyprus and Spain.
Some 2,000 deaths have been monitored in 2017, but no one really knows how many men, women and children have drowned during the unregistered journeys captained by human traffickers.
Most of the dead have no names. We do not know their personal stories, their hopes and certainly not their faces. Today’s vigil – entitled “To die of hope” – which takes place each year in the week we mark World Refugee Day, pays tribute to each one of them.
Linda Bordoni spoke to St. Egidio's Cecilia Pani about the initiative.
Cecilia explains that St. Egidio has been collecting news about the people who have died, mainly in the Mediterranean Sea because "we were struck about so many people dying, but no one knew their names or their stories".
The newspapers, she says, carry numbers and statistics conveying the idea that "some sort of invasion of Italy is taking place. That's why we started to collect names and stories. On this occasion we remember the people who disappeared".
These people are men, women, children - even babies - entire families have disappeared in the waters, coming from all over the world.
Cecilia says these are people who fled their countries, many of them wanting to ask for asylum, most of them fleeing dire economic situations, escaping not only because of political problems but because their land gave them no possibility to live.
Cecilia says the ones who manage to reach our countries are the strongest. "You need money, courage, strength and good health to undertake this trip".
These people, she points out, “allow us to open our mentality and open our eyes on the future of the world”.