by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Lesvos, April 16, 2016
Dearest brothers and sisters,
Precious youth and children,
We have traveled here to look into your eyes, to hear your voices, and to hold your hands. We have traveled here to tell you that we care. We have traveled here because the world has not forgotten you.
With our brothers, Pope Francis and Archbishop Ieronymos, we are here today to express our solidarity and support for the Greek people, who have welcomed and cared for you. And we are here to remind you that – even when people turn away from us – nevertheless “God is our refuge and strength; God is our help in hardship. Therefore, we shall not be afraid” (Ps 45: 2-3).
We know that you have come from areas of war, hunger and suffering. We know that your hearts are full of anxiety about your families. We know that you are looking for a safer and brighter future.
We have wept as we watched the Mediterranean Sea becoming a burial ground for your loved ones. We have wept as we witnessed the sympathy and sensitivity of the people of Lesvos and other islands. But we also wept as we saw the hard-heartedness of our fellow brothers and sisters – your fellow brothers and sisters – close borders and turn away.
Those who are afraid of you have not looked at you in the eyes. Those who are afraid of you do not see your faces. Those who are afraid of you do not see your children.
They forget that dignity and freedom transcend fear and division. They forget that migration is not an issue for the Middle East and Northern Africa, for Europe and Greece. It is an issue for the world.
The world will be judged by the way it has treated you. And we will all be accountable for the way we respond to the crisis and conflict in the regions that you come from.
The Mediterranean Sea should not be a tomb. It is a place of life, a crossroad of cultures and civilizations, a place of exchange and dialogue. In order to rediscover its original vocation, the Mare Nostrum, and more specifically the Aegean Sea, where we gather today, must become a sea of peace. We pray that the conflicts in the Middle East, which lie at the root of the migrant crisis, will quickly cease and that peace will be restored. We pray for all the people of this region. We would particularly like to highlight the dramatic situation of Christians in the Middle East, as well as the other ethnic and religious minorities in the region, who need urgent action if we do not want to see them disappear.
We promise that we shall never forget you. We shall never stop speaking for you. And we assure you that we will do everything to open the eyes and hearts of the world.
Peace is not the end of History. Peace is the beginning of a History tied to the future. Europe should know that better than any other continent.
This beautiful island we stand right now is just a dot in the map.
To dominate the wind and the rough sea Jesus, according to Luke, called a halt to the blow outright when the ship He and His disciples embarked was in danger. Eventually calm succeeded the storm.
God bless you. God keep you. And God strengthen you.