A message of love from our director
Happy Valentine’s Day!
One year ago, my message arrived from Bangladesh, where the MOAS Aid Stations provided medical and humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled Myanmar en masse in August 2017. I looked at the new-born son of a young Rohingya couple who kindly welcomed me like a family member or an old friend in their makeshift shelter. On that occasion, I wondered about the sense of a festivity that reminds us of Love, though too often it’s only about presents and consumerism.
As with Christmas and other festivities, we often neglect the real meaning of what we celebrate and only focus on material things. What shall we buy? Where shall we have dinner? Which tourist destination shall we opt for? But we forget to love, genuinely. We forget to be kind, sympathetic and careful. We cultivate feelings that have nothing to do with love, we consider it a private and almost exclusive experience. We are overwhelmed by material things and neglect that real Love has deep, sound, mature roots. Real Love is not ephemeral, it’s a feeling that needs to be cultivated every day.
This is why, this year, I want to re-affirm that real Love is never a private issue, but a broader feeling that embraces our world and affects both our public and private life. MOAS – a humanitarian organisation founded to respond to the unnecessary deaths at sea caused by forced migration and a lack of #SafeAndLegalRoutes – was born from the love of our family. After seeing pictures of some shipwrecks and listening to Pope Francis’ call to action, we asked ourselves what we could do as a family to help other families in distress. Protected by the warmth of our home, we looked for a way to amplify the feeling uniting us and to serve a cause that we believe in.
When he was a teenager, Francesco Catrambone, my husband’s great-grandfather, left his native hometown in Calabria to follow his dream of success and arrived in the United States after a long sea journey. In today’s Europe, he would be classified as an unaccompanied minor and would be granted some protection before turning 18. Soon after, he would live in a limbo of frustration and uncertainty, just like thousands of boys and girls who arrived in Europe on unsafe vessels pushed by their desperation after surviving unspeakable horrors. When we set sail in 2014, we had in mind the many people who had drowned in silence and wanted to find a way to prevent new casualties. We also recalled the many parents forced to attempt impossible journeys only to seek refuge from brutality and find a safe place for their families, far from violence, persecution and extreme poverty. But, we also thought of the families willing to help those in distress.
Guided by a basic need to safeguard human life, we tried to amplify and expand our family love, turning it into a lifeline for people in danger. Similarly, in 2017 we didn’t hesitate to react to Pope Francis’ appeal not to forget the suffering of our Rohingya brothers and sisters targeted by ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
After his call to action, we started a new mission in Southeast Asia to assist both Bangladeshi and Rohingya people by providing vital medical assistance and emotional care. Now, we are preparing to begin a new mission to keep hope alive for a war-torn population: Yemen is languishing amid global indifference, with millions of people at risk of starvation and preventable or treatable diseases that become fatal because of the lords of war.
Regardless of MOAS’ current operational scenario, our heart is in every place where we worked to bring help, from the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea to Bangladesh. We will always ask ourselves how we can assist those who seek a peaceful future, and our thoughts are with every victim of the many current humanitarian crises unfolding at the global level. A special thought goes to the stateless Rohingya minority targeted by a new wave of violence in Myanmar and to the hundreds of people recently returned to Libya, a country that nobody can consider a port of safety.
On Valentine’s Day, I call on all people in love and wish that their Love will strengthen hope, fuelling actions based on solidarity and brotherhood, and guided by the universal love that unites us as members of the big human family. Our wish is that every victim of unjust suffering is able cultivate hope, against all odds.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
If you are interested in the work of MOAS, please follow us on social media, sign up to our newsletter and share our content. You can also reach out to us any time via [email protected] If you want to support our life-saving operations, please give what you can at www.moas.eu/donate.