Therese Lawlor-Wright ,our media volunteer, writes about the Lampedusa Cross and how the service held at St Alban’s in Macclesfield, moved her. She also challenges us to do what we can to help refugees.
Lampedusa is an island and few would have heard of it, were it not for the extraordinary events of recent years. War has resulted in a mass exodus of people, fleeing for their lives and seeking safe and secure havens. Often with just the clothes they stand up in and the few possessions they can carry, they walk for miles towards neighbouring countries or the coast.Thousands are held in refugee camps as governments struggle to find resources to deal with them. Many make hazardous sea journeys, paying their life savings to those who have learned there is money to be made from such tragedy. In small overcrowded boats they set out across the Mediterranean, hoping to reach Europe and regain some semblance of a normal life.
In 2013, 360 people died off the coast of Lampedusa. One islander, Francesco Tuccio, was moved to collect driftwood from the wreckage on the beach to make made rough crosses. He offered them to refugees as a sign of the ordeal that they had survived and their hope for the future. Something about this symbol and the gift captured the imagination. The British museum asked for a cross for their collection, it was indeed ‘a sign of the times’.
This summer, one of the Lampedusa crosses is on a pilgrimage through the diocese of Shrewsbury to mark the Church Year of Mercy. Every parish agrees to hold a prayer service to remember and send messages of hope to refugees. This is what was held at St Albans in Macclesfield. It was a short, prayerful and thoughtful ceremony led by the young people of the parish. The readings and personal stories shared from the refugees reminded us to think of why people left their homes, the sense of loss and dispossession, the terrifying journeys they embarked on, the traumatised emotional States they still lived in and how we greeted them as communities.
Readings were thought provoking with pictures and stories from refugees displayed on a screen at the front of the church and items such as bread, a bag, family photos being placed on the altar at various points in the service. When I joined the service, I sat at the back but was soon invited to move forward as, at several points in the ceremony, we all joined hands as a symbol of mutual connection and interdependence. Finally, parishioners were invited to write
messages of hope to the refugees and these were gathered together at the end of the ceremony. These will be blessed by Bishop Mark in Shrewsbury Cathedral on 12 November and given to refugees in the future.
At the end, we returned quietly to our homes, grateful to have homes to go to. My
neighbour commented ‘there is little, practically, that we can do….’ Someone else remarked ‘it’s amazing what we can become accustomed to…..’ Refugees being washed up on the shores of Mediterranean Islands. The extraordinary recurs and gradually we see it as something that ‘just happens’ a fact of life among all the other stories jostling for media attention.
The Lampedusa cross has found a place in the British Museum and is being welcomed into parishes across Shrewsbury. It reminds us to consider how we are welcoming and assisting the refugees that it represents.
Francesco used the resources and skills he had to make displaced people feel welcome and supported. Let’s take his example to do what we can to help.