The association Libera launched a national initiative on July 7. The president don Ciotti: “We need reflection, but we also need to organize the dissent.
Rome (Italy). Red was the colour of the pyjama’s worn by the children that drowned a week ago in front of the Libyan shores. Red was the colour of the t-shirt worn by the little Alan Kurdi, who was found dead three years ago at a Turkish beach. #redt-shirt to ‘stop the bleeding of humanity’ was the name of an initiative launched by Libera, the association against the mafia’s led by don Luigi Ciotti, Group Abele, presidents of ACRI, Legambiente, ANPI, and the journalist Francesco Viviano. They invited everybody to wear a red t-shirt last Saturday, July 7, to commemorate the migrant children that died at sea and, in general, the people who lost their live in the crossings. Ciotti explains the initiative serves to reflect on “how to end this loss of humanity”, but also to “plan and organize the dissent, to translate it into concrete facts”.
In response to the initiative, an entire country was coloured by red t-shirts. People wore red t-shirts in public squares, up in the mountains, on boats, and at the beach. People shared pictures of themselves in red t-shirts on Facebook an Twitter, including writers and celebrities, but above all, many, many citizens, of all ages and ethnicities. Brand new or worn, recycled from sport events, clubs or schools; red t-shirts, like those of the children refugees that died at sea, could be spotted everywhere in Italy, as well as at Libera summer camps in Sudan and at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. #redt-shirt was one of the most circulated hashtags on Twitter.
Three years have passed since little Alan Kurdi was found dead at a Turkish beach. At the time, his death provoked a wave of indignation. Today, the messages on social media are about hate or even denials, some have said the children are dolls. What has happened, why this inversion of feelings?
It is not enough to get indignant, indignation has to be transformed into sentiment, and the sentiment into commitment and responsibility. Otherwise, everything has to run on uncertain emotions. We have two ways to grow: relationships and knowledge. If we have arrived at this point, it is also because we have stopped adhering to them: we have become a society based on relationships that are mainly opportunistic and about interest rates; ‘the other’ is an accomplice or even an enemy. The society is also becoming culturally adrift: second-hand information prevails, as well as the reliance on hearsay, simplifications, and slogans, and because of that, manipulation, hoaxes, and propaganda. So, ignorance grows and, as a consequence, hate, because we hate what we do not understand.
The slogans used by the Italian Minister Matteo Salvini that seem to have struck a chord with people are “Stop invasion”, “Let’s help them at their home”, and “First the Italians”. How would you reply to these statements?
With slogans there is no reasoning and no discussion. They are simplifications that restrict or manipulate reality, only showing one aspect of it. I think that those who have political responsibilities should reason and help reason, particularly when talking about problems that touch millions of lives.
The “Institute nazionale di statistica” (ISTAT, National Institute of Statistics) has certified the record number of 5 million poor people in Italy. Do you think that there exists a correlation between the increasing resent towards immigrants and the impoverishment of the country?
It is obvious that it exists, and the intolerance and bewilderment of the people that are most vulnerable is understandable. The immigrants are not to blame, however. Is the political-economic system that is responsible, it causes conflicts in half the world, exploiting and plundering the territories, forcing millions of people to abandon their homes and possessions. The big migrations are in fact induced deportations.
The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) transformed from sea angels to deputy traffickers. How do you judge Italy’s policies on closing the door on immigrants while we have counted three shipwrecks and dozens of victims in four days?
The duty of receiving and helping immigrants is at the basis of civilization. If it fails, the bleeding of humanity risks becoming unstoppable. Many Italians have this duty on their conscious. I think for example of that mayor of Bardonecchia, Mauro Amprino, who had a manifesto hung up in 1948, in front of many Southern immigrants that were heading to France but left to die in the snow, with guidelines to urge for a better humanity: “Even if you do something against the law, at least know how to do it obeying the law of the hart, choosing climate conditions that are not harsh and without abandoning the unfortunates halfway.”
One of the most widespread statements is: if less people leave, less people will die. What do you think about this?
This is an example of cynicism and hypocrisy, from the moment we found out where the immigrants go that are struck in Libya or in Turkey. Considering the agreements with these countries to prevent immigrations, the West and Europe will have to account for this one day.
After the doors become armed, so will the European borders; closure and fears are not merely an Italian phenomenon. Is the dream of an open and supportive Europe over or did it never exist?
Of course it existed, even before they spoke of a European Union. The history of modern Europe began with three words: freedom, equality, and fraternity. It was not a dream. Millions of people fought and died to realize it. Europe has to look itself in the mirror and rediscover its true face. There are many Europeans that continue to dream of a Europe of which it cannot be said that – as the Pope said- “its human rights commitment has been its last utopia”.
There is no recipe, unfortunately, but what actions should be taken first to govern the phenomenon, do you think?
In short: rewrite the Dublin Convention, because an uncooperative Europe is only a technical aggregate of nations. Set up inclusion policies that can combine immigrant reception and safety. Structurally change an economic system that produces inequality and poverty at a global level, and thereby migration. And, at the same time, create better conditions so that those who live in Africa and other regions of the world that we have exploited and colonized, can migrate with dignity.
What message do you want to communicate with the initiative of last Saturday?
Red means ‘stop’. In this case the red of the t-shirts means ‘reflect’, a desire to look inside ourselves, and to stop this loss of humanity, but also to design and organize dissent, and to translate it into concrete facts. In an age where words are abused, even true words are no longer enough.