Rome, 11 September 2013 – Adam, a Sudanese refugee from Darfur, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father’s visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).
My name is Adam and I’m a 33 year-old refugee living in Italy because I was unable to stay in Sudan. I’m a war survivor who arrived here by sea. To be here today is a really emotional experience for me.
I feel a strong responsibility to express the pain and hope of all refugees living in Italy, but finding the words is not easy.
I thought I would briefly tell you my story, not because it is more important than others, on the contrary, but because although it may seem extraordinary it is really quite normal for so many people in the world. It is a story of war.
You know better than us how many wars there are in the world and where, and for this reason you can understand the burden we refugees carry on our shoulders.
My story of war began when soldiers burned down my village in Darfur. My two younger sisters, four and six years of age, died in the fire. I was forced to enlist with the rebels, my brother with government forces. Two months later, I found myself in the middle of a conflict with a rifle in my hand.
I was fighting against those who I had been ordered to consider my enemies. I never imagined that day the enemy could have been my elder brother. One in front of the other, we remained paralysed staring into each other’s eyes. We didn’t say a word to each other. Instead, I threw my rifle to the ground and began running, escaping. My flight ended in Italy.
We refugees are the fortunate survivors, the witnesses of so deaths in war, of those killed by terrible dictators.
The most difficult part for those like me, refugees in Italy, is trying to raise public awareness of the tragedies in which our peoples live. We can’t afford to give in to the pain, to close in on ourselves, to consider ourselves victims of injustice. If we do that we’ll offend the memory of those who didn’t make it.
We refugees have a duty to do our best to integrate into Italian society. It is difficult, but we must try. Many of us arrived here full of hope and expectations. We were convinced that the worst was behind us, but too frequently we wonder if that’s the case.
Many of us living in Italy don’t have a bed, a hot meal or a place to call home where we can recover from our long journey and the horrors of war. Even if integration seems more of a dream than reality, we can’t give up. I was lucky; I was helped by friends in Centro Astalli. They are my home, my second family.
One last thing, Your Holiness. The journey we refugees are forced to take in order to seek asylum in Europe is a crime against humanity. There were 170 people in the boat that brought me from Libya to Italy. Each one of us paid 1,200 US dollars to take this journey, for many it was a ticket to their death.
Holiness, your voice is powerful. Everyone listens to you. Help us. Speak out against these massacres in the future.
Seeking asylum shouldn’t cost you your life.