Una vita in Africa – A life in Africa Rotating Header Image

An unfinished work – Un’opera Incompiuta

“Porta di Lampedusa, Porta d’Europa” in ceramica refrattaria e ferro zincato, alta 5 metri, inaugurata il 28 giugno 2008, un’opera di Mimmo Paladino voluta e realizzata da Amani.
“Porta di Lampedusa, Porta d’Europa”, by internationally famous Italian sculptor Mimmo Paladino, is an art work in refractory ceramic and galvanized iron, 5 meters high. It was promoted and implemented by Amani, and inaugurated on June 28, 2008.

The “Door of Lampedusa” opens on a sea where it is estimated that in the last twenty years almost twenty thousand people have perished attempting a difficult crossing from Africa to Italy. It is in a sense an unfinished work. It can be a sign of piety and a place of meditation, or a sad and cold tomb, or become the symbol of a Europe that opens to Africa, of acceptance and new solidarity. It’s up to us in the years to come to build its meaning.

Looking at this door we understand that globalization is not only cheap goods that invade our market. The positive and real force of globalization is the people who finally have access to the awareness of being part of one world, the people who want to be in charge of their lives, and for that they are willing to come to Europe to do the most menial jobs: care for our sick relatives, cook our food and clean our cities.

Our European world is now a small world, and beyond this door there is a bigger world that asks us to participate and share. Europe sometimes is a small world not only in a geographical sense, but because it has a closed and petty mentality. A small world that thinks of itself as the center of the universe, that does not understand that beyond our borders – which are increasingly losing meaning – there is a new big world seething with life.

To close this door would mean to close to history and to the future. Europe has begun to understand that an international law like the one built in the last few centuries, which denies the possibility of interfering with the internal affairs of another country – even at a time of persecution or genocide – is obsolete. The new principle of humanitarian intervention are already old in the face of escalating drama of hunger and ecological disaster. Europe panics as its own geopolitical importance is declining and it is not able to address the growing demand for solidarity, and raises ever higher barriers shutting itself in a net of national interests

At this time – and I hope it will pass quickly – Europe believes in those who perceive the stranger as a threat, as the one who wants to rob us of “our stuff” and “our identity”. Instead the stranger is “the one without whom to live is not any longer life”.

Accepting the others we do not do them a favor: we help ourselves. Otherwise we become masks, and identify more and more with a fixed, imagined self-understanding that is supposed to protect us from our inner insecurities, but is a static and sterile vision which prevents us from growing as human beings and as a society. It is a temptation that affects everyone, even the church that sometimes seems to prefer the safe haven of the old habits rather than the adventure of the open sea.

The poor, however, refuse to live in a misery unworthy of the human person, victims of internal and external exploitation, of wars they do not understand and do not want to fight on behalf of others, and come to seek that “European way of life” that we have promoted with our propaganda, foolishly confident that our model of development is the only possible one.

There are those who believe that Europe must be able to stop this wave of humanity that comes to hug us. Law and security is their answer. But they will be deluded, fortunately for all of us. The law cannot change history, and indeed almost always history is forced to follow the law, especially when it comes to momentous events such as the mass migrations taking place today. So those who keep theirs eyes opened, realize that solidarity must become global or does not make sense any longer. Class and national selfishness are a language of the past. Today, our children feel more and more citizens of one world and instinctively understand – unless they are slaves of relentless propaganda – that our society can be founded only on a global solidarity, otherwise it is a disguised egoism. In a few years the politicians who invented the walls that divide the nations -as between Mexico and the United States or between Israel and Palestine – will be consigned to history as survivors of an era in which no one will want to be part.

I am proud of roots of my European culture and my tradition, which teaches me to recognize in each person first of all our common humanity, source of dignity and rights. Only later you can see the differences, which are a complement for each other. In fact, the differences create and give me life, because without these differences I could not be myself.

I’m happy to be a member of pope Francis’ flock, the pastor who visit these brothers not to do social work, not for diplomatic calculations or to change the geopolitical balance, but “only” because these people “are the flesh of Christ.”

I no longer see the Door of Lampedusa as a monument to the dead but as a great sign of hope for the living. We do not simply remember those bodies at the bottom of the sea: we recognize them as people who came to us eager to share our common humanity.

We recognize that they, who have already gone through another door – the one that opens on the encounter with the Infinite, with the one who really and definitely is the Other – they understood what we find it hard to fathom: that brotherhood is our only possible horizon.

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