Sunday, 31 July – The Lampedusa Cross
The following account was written by Irene Prentice CAFOD Parish contact for St John’s Bath….
Batheaston is a village some two miles east of Bath on the north bank of the River Avonwith a population of over 2,700. The Good Shepherd R C Church at Northend has strong ecumenical links with the other Christian denominations within the village and the neighbouring village of Bathford. Over the years, that bond of friendship has been strengthened as they gather together for feast days, fast days, and monthly ecumenical services.
On the balmy evening of Sunday, July 31st 20 people from the different Christian denominations congregated in the Good Shepherd Church as the sun set for a service to reflect on the refugee crisis. According to the UNHCR in 2015, 65.3 million people were displaced, meaning 1 person in 113 have been driven away from their homes through wars and persecution
CAFOD’s guide, “The Lampedusa Cross: A Year of Mercy pilgrimage on the refugee crisis”, was an invaluable aid in contemplation and reflection. Using a world map we identified the top ten nations where refugees come from, how many will go to bed hungry in a bountiful world. We reflected on the marginalisation of minorities, and the plight of those having to flee in a hurry leaving behind members of family who could not afford to get away or too weak to travel. We contemplated on the welcome or rejection that awaited them.
We were then shown a rough cross made by Francesco Tuccio, who made the first such cross from the wreckage of a boat that sank off the island of Lampedusa. Lampedusa is an island, the southernmost point of Italy. This cross, sourced by CAFOD was later passed round to all present.
Isobel Rathbone, Vicar of the C of E local parish church summed up for most in remarking that it was a very moving service, weaving the reality of those suffering with the suffering of Christ and the people of God in the Bible. Another member of the congregation who fled the Iran-Iraq war of the 1990s confided, “These people will have to loose themselves, their old identity to find a new identity.They are traumatised, and many will not be able to speak about what they are enduring for a long time, perhaps not forever. I know their pain.”
For me, the simple wooden cross from the shores of Lampedusa, hewn from the wreckage of a battered boat, comes alive in my hands. It speaks to me as I gently run my fingers and palm along the grain and knot. It tells me of those who never made it to shore. It tells me of the fears and suffering of those it had carried as they reluctantly wrench themselves from home and loved ones – a home that they may never see again.Despite all these, it tells me of their search for hope. If I can do nothing, I can still pray for those afflicted by war.