Refugees Feel at Home

November 27, 2015 – Italy

Sacred Heart, a “periphery” in the center of Rome, where the refugees feel at home

In 2009, together with the Missionary Sisters of the Risen Christ, the Salesians began to consider how they could make Sacred Heart a reference point for many young people, especially the poorest. Among the various forms of youth poverty, they felt that the young refugees or asylum seekers who gathered around Termini station were the ones with the most pressing needs.(ANS – Rome) – For several years the Salesian house of Sacro Cuore (Sacred Heart) in Rome has been a center where people of every race and color meet, thanks to the Sacred Heart Missionary Project. It has been a place of new life for the youth of the world. There is a whole range of activities for young people, Italians and immigrants, who attend the center located across the street from the Termini station, a real crossroads for the cultures and problems of the capital.

The project now caters for approximately 170-180 young refugees, people fleeing their countries because they are in grave danger or people who, for various reasons, are recognized by the Italian State as being in need of protection or humanitarian assistance. The majority are men aged 20-30. Their place of origin varies over the years depending on the flow of migration.

The first problem is that of socialization. “We favor the creation of a social network for these young men who are at high risk of being ghettoized. Our goal is to create a ‘home that welcomes’ where they can feel at home regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or origin and where they can meet young Italians whom they can relate to,” says Fr. Emanuele De Maria, the Salesian in charge of the project. To this end they organize outings and parties, as well as groups of interreligious dialog.

Other activities are geared toward their integration into Italian society: Italian courses, primarily, but also computer literacy, supporting those who are studying to obtain a degree or certificate, driving school, helping them to draw up a curriculum vitae or to prepare for a job interview.

All this is carried out under the coordination of the Salesians and the Missionary Sisters of the Risen Christ, with about 40 young volunteers and young people doing civil service. Before starting they are all given training in relation to their duties, and also formation in the Salesian way of doing things. As a result, many of the volunteers have discovered or resumed the paths of faith and spirituality.

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