The 2022 regional focus of the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in 2022 is Europe. The visit is facilitated by the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe and hosted by Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.
The WCC delegation is led by Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC central committee, and Torsten Moritz, general secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe.
In Palermo, many different cultures live together, with people, histories, and nationalities from all over the world.
In this context, churches have always taken care of the poorest and most vulnerable people, often in neighbourhoods with children at risk of school dropout, child migrants, women victims of trafficking, evicted persons, and people facing other grave challenges and injustices.
At the Waldensian Diaconal Centre, Centro Diaconale La Noce, in Palermo, 21 May, the WCC delegation learned more about the church’s work on the right to housing and dignified hospitality to refugees.
The center also runs a local kindergarten, provides support for people with disabilities, and manages a guesthouse and convention center.
One of the initiatives under the umbrella of the center is Casa di Batja. Floriana Madonia, director of Casa di Batja, a small reception centre for women and child refugees placed in a secret location in the region, shared that the main goal of their work is to equip women to be integrated into the society. “Besides the legal assistance to help them to have a resident permit, learning Italian is an effective instrument in the process of building the women’s autonomy that can enable them to move their lives forward in a dignified way,” she said.
Another progamme is Casa dei Mitri, a reception centre for unaccompanied minors who are part of the national reception and integration system.
Concetta Randazzo, director, said that the priority is to take care of the most urgent health problems, then legal documentation, including a residence permit and identity card, as well as an education, as most of the children have never been to school.
They also explore vocational aspirations among the young people, including possible internships.
Another visit was to Pellegrino della Terra, an association that has been operating in Palermo since 1996 in the field of psycho-social assistance to protect and promote people’s fundamental rights, including the civil rights of foreigners, and to combat violence, particularly sexual exploitation of trafficked women.
Pellegrino della Terra has been providing psychological support to migrants, refugees and women victims of trafficking since 2000 through a listening center to help them escape exploitation. The association also accompanies people on an individualized path of socio-working reintegration.
In addition to starting training internships, the facility offers a recreational play area for children (95% of users are women, many of whom have children). In addition, Italian language courses for foreigners, collection and distribution of clothing, information, and territorial awareness are provided.
The funds come from Otto per Mille of the Waldensian Church Union of the Methodist and Waldensian Churches.
At the end of the day, the WCC delegation joined the ecumenical vigil “Solidarity in Welcome, Justice and Peace” at the Palermo Cathedral, hosted by Archbishop Corrado Lorefice. Besides the participation of representatives of the Anglican Church in Sicily, the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Church of Reconciliation, Evangelical Lutheran Community of Sicily, Methodist and Waldensian Church of Palermo, Romanian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the vigil had testimonies from migrants from Mali, Ukraine and Mauritius who are already fully integrated into Italian society thanks to the support of church-related organizations.
The WCC visit to Italy goes on until 25 May, with stops in Lampedusa and Rome.