Paolo Naso (FCEI): “Against False Promises, We Are Called to Freedom”

We publish here below, the speech given by Paolo Naso on July 8 from Radio1 Rai for the column “Essere chiesa insieme” of the broadcast Culto Evangelico. Mr. Naso is the coordinator of the Mediterranean Hope – Programme for refugees and migrants by the FCEI.

The European and Italian public opinion has been stuck on the topic of migration for months. Judging by the importance that immigration occupies in the public debate, it would seem to be a question that alone overcomes all the other problems of the Italian and European society. And in a rhetorical escalation that seems to have no limits, it was declared that for immigrants and asylum seekers “the pacchia is over”; that Italy must “defend” its borders and block new arrivals of migrants by adopting a “naval blockade” as in wartime; that from now on the NGOs operating in the Mediterranean “will see Italy only in postcard”.

A large portion of the public opinion seems to appreciate this escalation and gives strength to ideas and projects that impose a change in migration policies. The promise is a more orderly and secure society, which saves resources that finally, can be used for the benefit of the Italian people.

It is an attractive promise, especially for young people disappointed by too many unfulfilled promises, for most vulnerable segments of this society; or for those who have seen their neighbourhood or the city in which they live degrading over the years. Or for those who have never tolerated the mosque or the Pentecostal church that opened nearby.

The strength of this promise is that it costs nothing. Increasing pensions, guaranteeing citizenship income, overcoming the Fornero’s law – the electoral campaign slogans – require substantial resources, and there are a few economists who have started to say that these are promises that cannot be maintained, while criminalizing immigrants and discrediting those who work with them and for them does not require large public investments. Just a clear and effective message that reaches to the stomach of people, a choir of newspapers that jump on from the bandwagon of the political winner, some effective slogans and you are done.

But the promise of a more beautiful and happy country without the immigrants also contains elements of serious weakness. For example it cannot be renewed forever without plausible results on other fronts such as employment, the rights of young workers, guarantees for elderly and vulnerable people. Above all, it is a weak promise based on false data, on a big lie that has become truth from repeating it. But, it still stands on a great falsehood.

All data, even those issued by the Viminale on May 29 have confirmed that the number of immigrants arriving in Italy have decreased over the last year and that the asylum seekers who arrived on such well-known boats have dropped by 78% compared to the previous year. So, where is the biblical exodus that is being depicted by increasing fears and prejudices against immigrants? ‘How do you imagine the apocalyptic scenario of millions of immigrants ready to land on Italian shores? Why concentrate the political agenda on this issue, with an emphasis and harshness that is not reflected by the facts? And, Why not consider the demographic data that foresee a drop of more than two million people over the next twenty years – according to the Italian ISTAT, to date suggest that Italy needs more migrants who work to keep the balance in balance social security system?

The data, the numbers, tell us that we are facing a dramatic blunder, a gigantic perspective distortion by which we see a giant shadow generated, in reality, by a modest figure that a country like Italy and a Union like the European one would be perfectly able to face and manage.

This is what the Christian churches, often together, try to say in these days when they are building mountains of alarmist and violent words. The churches can do this by promoting acceptance and dialogue, by experimenting safe access routes for the most vulnerable asylum seekers as they have been with humanitarian corridors for over two years; supporting and sharing the work of NGOs legally operating in the Mediterranean sea  and in compliance with the codes of the sea. The churches do this by trying to be witnesses to the truth: the truth in Christ who calls us to recognize, love and help others But also the truth that sets us free, from false idols and false prophets, as well as from false promises that are generously addressed to us every day.