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Ukrainian exodus of suffering

As Russia shells Kharkov, and a convoy of Russian tanks heads for Kiev, more than half a million Ukrainians are fleeing their country, claims the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The Pope Francis asked for today, the beginning of Lent, special prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine, and to put "faces and concrete stories of suffering", it was recalled during a day of prayer at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome).

Rafael Miner-March 2, 2022-Reading time: 7 minutes
Refugees ukraine

UNHCR counted at about 3 p.m. on Monday more than half a million people fleeing the fighting between the Russian and Ukrainian armies. Today there are around 600,000. People with sadness and sometimes panic on their faces, who have left these days crowding subways, train stations and roads in Ukrainian localities, as happened in Afghan airports, especially in Kabul, not so long ago.

Ajmal Rahmani, for example, left Afghanistan a year ago thinking he would find peace in Ukraine, but is now fleeing back to Poland, along with thousands of refugees, because of the Russian advance, France Press reports from Medyka, Poland. "I fled one war, and I find myself in another. I have not had much luck," laments this Afghan in his forties, who has just arrived in Poland with his wife Mina, his son Omar, 11, and his daughter Marwa, seven, who is not separated from her brown stuffed dog."

It is estimated that the number of Ukrainian refugees to other countries could reach five million, according to a Pentagon and U.S. intelligence assessment cited a few days ago by The Washington Post. The exodus would generate, and is already causing, a humanitarian crisis of major proportions in neighboring countries, mostly in Poland.

Poland: 300,000, plus 1.5 million today

This is the "largest exodus within Europe" since the Balkan war. The United Nations has warned that this number could increase in the next few days, notes The Debate citing Europa Press sources, taking into account that most of them are women and children.

"This number has been increasing exponentially, hour by hour, literally, since Thursday. I have worked in refugee crises for almost 40 years and rarely have I seen such an incredibly rapid exodus of people," the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, Filippo Grandi.

Ukraine borders seven countries. Russia to the north and east, Belarus in the north, Poland and Slovakia to the west and Romania, Hungary and Moldova in the southwest. The Black Sea to the south. Well, as of yesterday, according to UNHCRIn the past, 280,000 migrants have fled to Poland, 94,000 have migrated to Hungary, almost 40,000 are currently in Moldova, and 34,000 and 30,000 are in Romania and Slovakia, respectively.

"I would like to congratulate the governments of host countries for allowing refugees access to their territory. The challenge of admitting and registering, meeting the needs and ensuring the protection of those fleeing, is daunting," says Filippo Grandi.

The exiles are going to numerous countries, not only bordering ones. In Trieste (Italy), some fifty people arrived by bus, including a nine-month-old girl, all of them destined for friends or acquaintances, mainly in the north.

"Building the future with migrants and refugees."

The Ukrainian Health Ministry on Monday updated the civilian death toll as a result of the Russian invasion and, while maintaining the provisional death toll at 352, has already put the number of wounded above 2,000 - specifically, 2,040 - according to the Ministry of Health. The Objective.

In his invitation that this March 2, Ash Wednesday, believers and non-believers unite in prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine, the Holy Father said that it is "a day to be close to the suffering of the Ukrainian people, to feel that we are all brothers and sisters and to implore God for an end to the war".

On the other hand, Pope Francis stressed that those who wage war forget about humanity: "It does not start from the people, it does not look at the concrete life of the people, but puts partisan interests and power before everything else. He entrusts himself to the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the farthest from the will of God. And it distances itself from the common people, who want peace; in all conflicts - the common people - are the true victims, who pay for the follies of war on their own skin".

In his Message for this Lenten season, which begins today, the Pontiff encourages, as he has reported Omnes: "Let us not tire of praying. Jesus has taught us that it is necessary to 'pray always without becoming discouraged'. We need to pray because we need God. To think that we are sufficient on our own is a dangerous illusion".

The Pope goes on to add: "Let us take special advantage of this Lent to care for those close to us, to make ourselves neighbor to those brothers and sisters who are wounded on life's journey. Lent is a propitious time to seek out - and not avoid - those who are in need; to call - and not ignore - those who wish to be heard and to receive a good word; to visit - and not abandon - those who suffer loneliness. Let us put into practice the call to do good. to allby taking time to love the smallest and most defenseless, the abandoned and despised, those who are discriminated against and marginalized (Fratelli tutti, 193).

"Ordinary people, the real victims"

In the same vein, looking ahead to the 108th Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will take place on September 25, the Holy Father has chosen as the title for his Message "Building the future with migrants and refugees", in order to underline the commitment to which we are all called to put into practice to build a future that responds to God's plan, excluding no one, the Vatican Press Office reported.

"Building with" means, above all, recognizing and promoting the contribution of migrants and refugees to this work of construction, because only in this way will it be possible to build a world that guarantees the conditions for the integral human development of all men and women."

To encourage preparation for the Day, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development will launch, beginning in late March, a communication campaign aimed at promoting a deeper understanding of the theme and sub-themes of the Message.

Truthful account of the migratory phenomenon

Just a few days ago, Father Fabio Baggio recalled some initiatives that the Migrants and Refugees Section of this Dicastery has adopted in the last five years, in harmony with the Magisterium of Pope Francis. He did so in a Journey The event was organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on February 16 and promoted by the Faculty of Communication and the Association of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. ISCOMin collaboration with the Migrants and Refugees Information Committee, informs Antonino Piccione.

The aim, according to its promoters, was to promote a truthful account of the migratory phenomenon without starting from polarized or sterile divisive narratives, respecting the dignity of the people involved (dignity "is the cornerstone of our commitment, of our civil passion", mentioned the Italian Head of State Sergio Mattarella, in his speech on February 3) in line with professional ethics and deontology.

Father Fabio Baggio pointed out, in particular, that "special attention must be paid to the question of work, which is at the service of man, and not the other way around. The unemployed, or those with irregular and precarious jobs, run the risk of being relegated to the margins of society." "A challenge," Father Baggio stressed, "that poses a great challenge for migrants and refugees: "many of them are as if they did not exist, exposed to various forms of slavery and exploitation.

"Let us listen to these stories!" is Pope Francis' exhortation. "Everyone will then be free to support the migration policies he or she considers most suitable for his or her own country. But we will have before our eyes, in any case, not numbers, not dangerous invaders, but faces and stories of concrete people, looks, expectations, sufferings of men and women to listen to."

A name and a story for each migrant

"To overcome prejudices about immigrants and melt the hardness of our hearts, we should try to listen to their stories. Give a name and a story to each one of them."

Following the Message of the Holy Father Francis for the 56th World Communications Day, some testimonies of refugees, collected by the Center, were projected during the university academic day. Astalli.

The video contributions offered Mario Marazziti, of the Community of Sant'Egidio, the opportunity to reflect on the importance of "true welcome" and "true integration" in the light of a personal experience at the origin of a great collective event. "I was in Lampedusa two days after the great shipwreck. 172 bodies were to be recovered," he recalls. Antonino Piccione.

That October 5, 2013, we decided to 'invent' the humanitarian corridors to remain human, us and Europe, noted Mario Marazziti. "Thanks to sponsorship and civil society, since then 4,500 refugees have resumed their lives in Italy and the rest of the continent thanks to Sant'Egidio, the Protestant Churches, the Church, ordinary citizens, and a model of integration available to governments. Humanizing' can no longer be just an extraordinary event.

We must avoid the "globalization of indifference" denounced by Francis in Lampedusa. Gian Guido Vecchi, of the Corriere della SeraAfter greeting one by one the refugees in the Lesbos camp, the Pope said: 'I am here to look you in the eye. Those who fear you have not seen your face.' How do you break through the wall of fear and indifference? How do you report the tragedy of migration? For a journalist, it is paradoxically a matter of taking a step back. Flaubert's lesson: don't show your emotions, but move the reader and show the details, the faces, the stories."

Other speakers at the conference included Stefano Allievi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Padua, and Adele Del Guercio, of the Department of Human and Social Sciences (University of Naples L'Orientale). The perception of the phenomenon derived from communication, including social networks, was the focus of the debate moderated by the notary Vincenzo Lino, between Aldo Skoda (Pontifical Urbaniana University) and Fabrizio Battistelli (president of the International Research Institute Archivio Disarmo). Finally, Raffaele Iaria (Fondazione Migrantes), Annalisa Camilli (Internazionale) and Nello Scavo (Avvenire) discussed the relationship between truth and the journalistic profession. For the latter, "the worst enemy of journalists and journalism is not crime, but the lie of the State".

The Mediterranean, a frontier of peace

To complete this overview of the migratory phenomenon, in this case caused by the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, it is useful to recall the meeting of bishops and mayors of the Mediterranean coastal towns, held this weekend at the initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, reported by Omnes.

This is the second initiative of its kind, personally led by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference. The first took place two years ago, just before the outbreak of the pandemic, in Bari, in the presence of Pope Francis, who was unable to attend this year. About sixty bishops from some twenty countries bordering the 'mare nostrum' took part in the meeting, to reflect on how to make it more and more a 'frontier of peace'.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti lamented the "terrible scenario" that Ukraine is experiencing in the midst of the invasion it is suffering at the hands of Russia, and made an appeal to "stop the madness of war." "With the bishops present in Florence," he said, "we have expressed our sorrow for the terrible scenario in Ukraine. We have appealed to the conscience of policy makers to stop them from using weapons," he added.

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