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Refugees with the Franciscans

A Migrant at the Antonian Sanctuaries of Camposampiero

A young Afghan named Anwar was welcomed into the friary at the Antonian Sanctuaries of Camposampiero, Province of Padua, Italy. Two other Camposampiero parishes took in another three migrants. The little town of Camposampiero is located within the Diocese of Treviso in Italy’s Veneto Region.
Anwar is 30 years old. He came to Italy on September 23, 2014. His journey began in May of that year, when he fled from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, because there was no freedom left in Afghanistan.
Before arriving in Italy, he went through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria, where he met three other Afghans. They went through Serbia together and arrived in Croatia. From there he traveled hidden in a truck for three days without food or water and with little oxygen. Finally, he arrived in Treviso, Italy, where he was rescued. His wife and five children remain in Afghanistan. Anwar enjoys international protection for five years.

The General Secretariat


Hospitality at St. Anthony’s Village

St. Anthony’s Village in Padovana Noventa, Italy, has always had full service hospitality for the needy in its DNA. Inspired by the words of the Pope and the bishops, the friars of the community had been wondering how to respond, in their small way, to the needs of the many migrants who were lucky enough to make it to Italy.
The Peraga House in the Commune of Vigonza was once a residential community for disadvantaged children. After standing empty for several years, in late June of 2015, it became home for nine Nigerian refugees and another two from Ghana.
These men, all between 20 and 30 years of age, reached Italy aboard boats from Libya. During their journey, they saw some of their companions die. Now they are looked-after by a social cooperative, which takes care of all their needs and helps them through the administrative procedures related to their status as asylum seekers. One friar from the Noventa Padovana community has been offering a mini-course in elementary Italian from the very beginning. There have been mutual visits between the Village and the refugees, and, in getting to know them, the friars have been learning what it means to flee one’s country in search of a better future, one that was denied at home by conflict or poverty. They have been learning about the huge risks that these men took to reach Europe, and the desperation that drove them. Their presence has given the friars a way to learn about the strengths and limitations of a different culture, and to value and appreciate it as well.

The General Secretariat


Friary of St. Anthony, Doctor, Padua

For about four months, two young Nigerians, ages 23 and 25, have been guests at our friary. We are a single community composed of solemnly professed friars and temporarily professed friars in initial formation.
Last year we were repeatedly asking ourselves what we could do to offer a concrete gesture of hospitality. The Pope’s invitation and increasingly pressing needs were knocking at our door. This led us to reserve some space in our house to accommodate people who needed a place where they could find shelter.
Our desire was to offer hospitality to someone who felt free and comfortable in sharing the “rhythms” of our life with us. In other words, we did not just want to offer someone a room; we wanted to include the possibility of taking part in our in ordinary daily life.
So, two Nigerian men came to us in mid-November, 2015. They knew a little bit of Italian, since they had already been in Italy for a few months. We established a cordial relationship with them right away. Of course it was lucky for them because they came to our friary having just gotten jobs at a cooperative, where they are still engaged. The rest of the time they live with us as members of the friary, sharing meals with us, taking part in evening fraternity when they want to spend more time with the friars.
They joyfully help out with simple housekeeping chores and loyally participate in our community prayers even though we do not in any way required them to attend.
The fact is, since their arrival they have never failed to smile at us each day. This gives quiet witness to their serenity in spite of the dramatic and painful experiences they have left behind.
We realize this is just a gesture, a small gesture, which certainly will not solve the huge problem of taking in refugees.
And yet we are the ones to thank the Lord for helping us discover the face of God in the “stranger”; a God who comes to meet us where there is limitation, insecurity and a need for care.

Friar Antonio Ramina – Guardian and Rector of the Seminary


Refugees in Schwarzenberg, Germany

Our community in Schwarzenberg is looking for ways to respond to the refugee crisis currently sweeping across Europe. In recent days, some of the volunteers who were helping the refugees in our area, asked us to grant asylum in the church to a young family from Iraq who fled their home country due to ISIS terrorism.
Our community accepted the proposal because the government of Bavaria wanted to deport this family to Hungary – a family with a four-year-old child and a pregnant woman. The members of this young family are very afraid of the way refugees are being treated in Hungary, because they have already been there and were treated badly.
The young family will be hosted by our community until just after Easter. After that period of time, Germany will be obliged to proceed with the request for asylum.

Friar Andreas Murk, Guardian


Custody of the East and the Holy Land

Since the beginning of the Syrian war, the friars of the Custody have been making themselves available to help those who come knocking at their door.
The communities in Istanbul and Büyükdere, Turkey, have welcomed Syrian families on several occasions. The friars are not only committed to welcoming these families, but also, to taking care of them, seeing to their future and trying to help them find a safe haven and a dignified life. The friars have also provided economic assistance to those among the refugees who are in need.
In Lebanon, most of the Syrian refugees live in tents in the fields of the Bekaa Valley, in the North and South of the country. All of them are Muslims. Christian refugees get met by their relatives and mix into the Lebanese population. Besides the Syrians, Lebanon has also been welcoming refugees from Iraq, mainly Christians, entrusting their welfare to the Chaldean Church for as long as the Church can stand the weight of this commitment. For more than a year the friars have been offering regular service to both Syrian and Iraqi refugees. In order to be better organized, the friars had to create an NGO, which was given the name “EQUAL”. The friars and EQUAL members work with youngsters and their mothers. They have similar programs for both the Syrian and Iraqi refugees. For the Syrians, activities take place in two large tents that EQUAL set up in the refugee camp located in the Bekaa Valley. For the Iraqis, premises have been made available by the Friars Minor in Harissa.
During the initial phase (which lasted more than eight months), activities were manual—drawings, in order to help the young people express themselves, develop possible skills and pass the time in peace. There was also training in non-violence. For the mothers, a psychologist and a sociologist took turns giving training sessions on topics related to everyday life in a precarious and difficult situation, and other topics requested by the mothers themselves.
During the second phase, (since October for Iraqis and January for the Syrians), the friars, novices, postulants and EQUAL members organized courses in Arabic, mathematics and English for those who were unable to go to school and as a boost for those who were attending school. The Iraqi mothers were offered an English course, and the Syrian mothers were offered an Arabic course so they could read and write. For now, training courses continue for the mothers and psychological support is made available to everyone.
This action started on the initiative of a friar who had pledged to seek out, above all, Syrian refugees for whom no international organization was concerned. We have gradually developed this service which is financed largely by the John Paul II Foundation and members of EQUAL.

The friars of the Custody

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