The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay association, provides services to and advocates on behalf of underprivileged, disadvantaged, and low income social groups around the world. Started in Rome by Andrea Riccardi in 1968, the Community has grown to 60,000 members across more than 73 countries and four continents. In this episode, CMSOnAir speaks with Paola Piscitelli, president of the Community’s chapter in the United States, on one of the Community’s innovative programs – The Humanitarian Corridors Project.
The project was launched on December 16, 2015 when the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Protestant Churches, and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches in Italy joined with the Italian Interior and Foreign Ministries to protect migrants and refugees making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe. The Humanitarian Corridors Project aims to:
- Prevent deaths at sea and exploitation by human traffickers;
- Provide legal and safe entry to vulnerable people;
- Plan reception and integration processes; and
- Self-fund with no costs to the host country.
Under the initiative, 1,000 of the most vulnerable refugees (e.g., women, children, the disabled, the sick, and the elderly) in Lebanon were allowed to travel to Italy over a two-year period with humanitarian visas. The success of the project has led to the opening of new humanitarian corridors agreements to allow 500 refugees from Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan in Ethiopia to resettle in Italy and 500 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon to resettle in France.
Pope Francis has expressed support for the initiative. During his Angelus address on March 6, 2016, he stated:
As a concrete sign of commitment to peace and life, I want to mention and express admiration for humanitarian corridors in favor of refugees, launched recently in Italy. This pilot project, which combines solidarity and security, allows one to help people fleeing war and violence, as the hundred refugees who have already been transferred to Italy, including sick children, disabled people, war widows with children, and the elderly. I also welcome this initiative because it is an ecumenical one, supported by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Italian Federation of Evangelical Churches, and the Waldensian and Methodist churches.
In this episode, Piscitelli describes the history of the Community of Sant’Egidio and explains its Humanitarian Corridors Project, including the process of identifying refugee beneficiaries and the communities to host them, the services and programs coordinated to welcome refugees, and the importance of ecumenical partnerships to serve people in need.
To learn more about the Community of Sant’Egidio USA and the Humanitarian Corridors Project, visit www.santegidiousa.org.