Building Bridges – an Italian reflection on Welcoming the Stranger
Newspapers and TV programmes show daily scenes of immigrants and refugees rejected and not at all accepted, having run away from war and misery of many types and who wish only to find in Italy a better future and a safe place. Such rejections leave us sad and we ask how such attitudes are possible in Italy, the cradle of Christianity for 2000 years. Italy, which knew (and we still know) the harsh reality of emigration … a land that, among other things, is the birthplace of so many missionaries.
What about these attitudes of rejection? From where do they have origin, and why? Is our Church at fault? We missionary people must meditate on these attitudes and resolve with renewed determination to serve the Gospel and the Poor in the best possible way.
The Holy Spirit helps us to discern what is the necessary action and how to realise it quickly. Unless we act, we face a spiritual “vacuum” and a failure in our humanity. Bridges are necessary to unify opposite strands of opinion and to shorten the gaps that keep people so sadly apart!
We human beings must enrich one another despite some well-meaning people (even Church members!) that obstruct the building of such “Bridges”. People who oppose bringing foreign people close to us. Some even claim rights of saving the purity of our breed from the “contamination” of different cultures.
As we approach the Holy Season of Christmas we recall that God is the first Bridge Builder: “God sent his Son to the World” (John 3:16). Jesus is the DIVINE Bridge between God and human beings – an eternal, perennial bridge that will not be demolished.
We are invited to cross over the bridge in order to reach salvation and eternal joy. And we must build bridges between far away shores and we must stand on the very margins in order to see and explore the other side whose perception may be blurred.
We must be observant and try to anticipate attitudes and reactions happening on the other side. We must cultivate an enterprising attitude to help us envision future harmony; a harmony that dispels anything that would discourage attitudes of harmony and unity.
No obstacle must prevent the building of the bridges of humanity that is God’s sacred will. Although many modern people may see only impossible tasks ahead, we must see only the transformative possibilities of God’s love.
The bridge project begins on a clean table but the actual building must take place with wet feet, in the mud, ready to enter the rivers of poverty and marginalisation with faith-filled imagination. We can be assured that our strong faith will be the bedrock for every stage of our bridge building; an invincible foundation, not of sand, but built of hope in human love and solidarity.
God’s love is, of course, our go-ahead.
Merry Christmas 2016! May God make of us all better Bridge Builders!
(This article first appeared in the 2014 SMA notizie, published in Italy)