A migrants cemetery in Reggio Calabria will serve as a symbolic and educational site for the entire community, with well-kept graves and tombstones bearing the names and the symbols of the respective religions of the deceased. A monument depicting a broken wall will represent the Gateway to Europe of the island of Lampedusa, in remembrance of all those who died before reaching the Mediterranean shores. It was the case of two recent shipwrecks, in the Aegean Sea, that left 9 dead migrants, including 6 children, and in the waters of Tunisia, with 48 corpses recovered so far. According to different sources, since 1988 31,100 people have died at sea. The initiative of the diocesan Caritas of Reggio Calabria-Bova calls upon diocesan Caritas nationwide to contribute to the restructure of the cemetery. “I hope we may be able to inaugurate it in November, on the days of the commemoration of the dead”, Fr Nino Pangallo, Director of Caritas Reggio Calabria-Bova, told SIR. This afternoon the members of Caritas Immigration Coordination in Italy will hold a memorial ceremony for the victims of the sea in the small cemetery of Arno, a village on the outskirts of the city of Reggio Calabria, where lie the tombs of 80 migrants. It will be a simple ceremony, co-celebrated with a survivor of a shipwreck whose family members are buried in the cemetery. A group of refugees will sing Gospel music and traditional songs. The Muslim community and Caritas Italy will deliver a eulogy and a crown of flowers will be placed on the most significant grave, that of a mother with her newborn child. During the period of migrants’ arrivals Caritas Reggio Calabria-Bova helped house ninety unaccompanied minors. Now only one community is sill open.
A place of reference for schools and volunteer workers. The small cemetery of Reggio Calabria is the burial ground of a high number of immigrants, as many as 45 on May 26 2016, including women with their newborn babies and toddlers. “In the course of the years it became a point of reference for volunteers, schools, and scouts”, said Fr Pangallo.
“It stands as the symbol of many people’s unfinished journey.”
The diocesan Caritas still houses one of the children of that shipwreck whose young mother died at sea. “We hope it may serve as a symbol for Italy’s Caritas network and for all those working for migrants’ reception – he pointed out – . In fact, education is a priority for Caritas, thus it would send a very clear message.”
“We wish to ensure the preservation of migrants’ graves, with the involvement of Caritas to support the local administration’s expense. We need to collect at least 100 000 Euro.”.
To date, there are 80 tombs. Egyptian Copts, a Nepalese, Muslims and people whose identity was not ascertained, are among the deceased. “The tombs are well-kept because the local inhabitants are very caring – pointed out the Director of Caritas Reggio Calabria -. There is no religious symbol on their graves. We wish to take care of all burials, perhaps with a small gravestone bearing the various religious symbols – Christians, Muslims, etc – and a symbol for unidentified victims. We would like to create a small area with some gravel for every burial and a place where people can meet.” The project envisages the erection of a small monument representing the gateway to Lampedusa. “While Lampedusa is a finished door, representing those who managed to arrive, we wish to create a broken door representing those who failed to complete their journey– he said -, adding a Christian, interreligious passage from the Genesis describing the moment when Abraham buried Sarah welcomed by the Hittites, in many different languages”.
“We thought it would be beautiful to bring together the two works of mercy: to welcome the stranger and to bury the dead.”
“The burial site of those who failed to complete their journey – said Fr Pangallo – could become a powerful educational message, especially given the present political circumstances in which we still don’t know the future prospects of migrants’ reception.”
“We dream of a united Mediterranean without walls.”
Whoever wishes to contribute can contact the Caritas centre of Reggio Calabria-Bova.