“But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.”
― Malcolm Gladwell
(a wooden cross made from the wood taken form one the many wrecked ships attempting to ferry refugees from Northern Africa to Lampedusa, Italy. It stands as a solitary reminder in the British Museum that ours is a living history of struggle and hope, death and life…Image courtesy of the BBC)
What would you do if you lived in the crosshairs of one of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II?
What if you found yourself sitting at the epicenter, the starting point of a massively overwhelming crisis and never ending tragedy…standing as David facing a Goliath?
What if you were a curator to one of England’s largest and most important museums… you had found yourself reading and watching the news, like everyone else, feeling overwhelmed and helpless watching the thousands of refugees desperately trying to reach the shores of Italy’s Lampedusa eventually making their why to the safety of asylum scattered throughout the European Union?
You were nothing but a mere David staring at a distant Goliath….
Lampedusa is the largest of the Italian Pelegia Islands.
It sits closer to Africa than it does Sicily.
Think Key West, in proximity to Cuba verses the US, and you get picture.
And very much like the Cuban refugees who once flooded onto makeshift rafts and dinghies in order to flee the oppressive poverty as a result of Castro’s iron fisted communism, hoping almost beyond hope to make the precarious journey to US controlled waters, refugees by the thousands have left Africa’s northern shores hoping against hope to make their harrowing journey to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa…and eventually to freedom throughout Europe.
The problem is finding and funding passage from the coast of Northern Africa to the almost 8 square mile Island of Lampedusa and eventually to the continental shores of Europe.
The ferryman are scrupulous.
The ships painfully overcrowded, dangerous and there are not enough life jackets.
The ocean is treacherous and very unforgiving.
Many ships do not make it.
Many “passengers” drown.
Many are small children and infants.
What do you do if you are one of the Italian residents of this overtly tiny island who has made a simple living as a carpenter, yet you see almost daily the sadness of the bodies washing ashore.
You see the survivors who anguish over their drowned loved ones…the children who did not survive.
You see the beaches littered by the wood from the ships which broke apart mid journey…
You find yourself one Sunday at Mass, attended by many of the same refugees who seem lost, alone, afraid—as you each pray to the same God…you search the static image of the Crucified Christ hanging before you for answers….
You decide to quit your furniture business and you head off to the beach.
You gather as much of the broken bits of wood from the shipwrecked refugee boats that you can and you set out to carve and fashion together crosses.
Crosses which are a symbol of both sacrifice and death as well as salvation and hope.
You fashion a large altar cross for your parish church.
Your priest proudly places it on the altar as a reminder to all who worship that there is a massive crises in a very fluid state just outside the church’s door.
Soon word spreads and more church’s want the crosses.
Pope Francis receives a cross.
The BBC runs the story about the crosses and soon a curator to the British Museum sees your story and she too wants a cross…not for herself but for the museum…as a solemn reminder of the current overwhelming moment of human history currently taking place in the world.
The greatest mass exodus of human beings since World War II with the numbers even eclipsing that time.
How better could a museum, visited by thousands from across the world, share in the story of our currently hurting world.
Just how a small David could meet a giant Goliath and could manage to make a meaningful difference.
Here’s the link to the full story…
No matter how we feel about the refugees—as I now wonder how can Europe ever absorb so many individuals,
wondering how can we keep ourselves safe as we offer safe haven.
I worry about the terrorists who use this crisis to their own advantage as a means of mixing and blending and disappearing until later, much later.
I worry about how so many people can be housed, fed, cared for—60 million people and growing daily….
I worry about this world.
I don’t know any answers…
but I do know we need to try to do something