Pope Francis meets with Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin and delegation from the Mediterranea Saving Humans (17 November 2023) Pope Francis meets with Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin and delegation from the Mediterranea Saving Humans (17 November 2023) 

Mediterranean, our Common Home, and convergence of religious dates

A reflection written by Luca Casarini, the Head of Mission of Mediterranea Saving Humans

By Luca Casarini

Easter, Pesach, Ramadan, Nowruz. Call it fate, coincidence, or mystery, but this year, and it doesn't happen often, something wanted to show us, by aligning lunar cycles and different calendars, how our Mediterranean is a common home, a point of origin and at the same time a compulsory passage for multitudes that, although they also come from different and distant places from the shores of the sea, share a common home.

The main religious holidays, signs of cultures and traditions that sink their roots in our millennial journey, this year have all fallen in the same period, marking one after the other, a common belonging, visible to those who choose to see. Ramadan, the sacred month of our Muslim brothers and sisters, coincides with the ninth month of the lunar calendar. It can thus also occur in winter, or in full summer.

But this year it has chosen to find itself at the appointment with Pesach, the "passage" celebrated by our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith, which falls on the first full moon after the spring equinox. And Christian Easter, for those who believe in Jesus, in His condemnation to Death by Crucifixion and in his Resurrection, has also arrived.

Nowruz, the Persian New Year, celebrated in Iran as in Iraq, in Afghanistan as in Turkey, by brothers and sisters of the Zoroastrian religion, has been there for 4000 years to remind us, between March 20 and 21 according to the Gregorian calendar, ours, that spring defeats winter, that life defeats death.

Ramadan, which literally means "torrid" because it originally fell in summer, is considered the most sacred month by Islam. In this period in "Laylat al-Qadr," the "Night of Destiny," the archangel Gabriel revealed the Quran to the prophet Muhammad.

Archangel Gabriel: could it be the one known to Christians? Certainly yes.

And Christians themselves, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, also celebrate a revelation, namely the beginning of Jesus' public life until the fulfillment of the prophecy, in the Cross and Salvation. Lent, indeed, like in Ramadan, involves fasting, "to draw closer" to God, and to Allah.

Thinking back to the controversies in our own country, Christians against Ramadan, it makes one smile. But it's the face-to-face encounter between Jewish Pesach and Islamic Ramadan that should pale and torment for eternity the proponents of the "clash of civilizations" in the Holy Land: Pesach marks the passage from slavery to freedom. The oppression, military and inhumane, of an army, that of Pharaoh, from which the Jews are freed by God thanks to an exodus.

It's an exodus, first and foremost from oneself, from their condition of incapacity to dream and believe in a "Promised Land." It's an exodus from every form of oppression and malice towards other brothers and sisters, and it's the waters of the Red Sea, not themselves, that overcome those who pursued them to capture them and return them in chains. Pesach, passage. From those oppressed to a new world, made of respect for that God who says "Do not kill."

During this celebration, bread is consumed unleavened, without yeast, in memory of the flight, of the hunger, that their fathers had to endure. What then is a Pesach while inflicting hunger and death, in Palestine, on other "children of Abraham"? And what Ramadan can be celebrated, for those who believe in Islam and the Quran, by only cultivating feelings of hate and promoting the martyrdom of one's own people as the only final solution? If Ramadan is fasting to draw closer to Allah, who demands to be different, to "purify oneself to cast out ideas of intolerance and violence," what worse blasphemy in betraying Him?

On "betrayal" precisely intervenes the Christian Easter, showing the very human frailty of Judas, but also of Peter. "You will deny me three times before the rooster crows..." And what about the Nowruz bonfires in Iran, around which still someone, courageous women, sing "Woman, Life, Freedom," challenging the great priests in power who do not want spring, but only winter and hell?

Our common origins have given us an appointment in this Mediterranean. Which is a "passage," suffering and hope, for many of our brothers and sisters, attempting the crossing to a better condition of life, towards hope. We meet them at sea, we listen to their stories of torture and violence suffered in Libya, in the camps, in Tunisia, deported to the desert. Their Easter, and ours too, is this.

There is death and resurrection in the Mediterranean. There is revelation. There is winter and spring, in the Mediterranean. And there we are, who are afraid of our common origins, afraid to look at ourselves in the mirror. And then it is easier for a new religion to burst onto the scene of this meeting between religions and cultures. It cannot boast the millennial history of the others, but it wields the arrogance of the leader. It is what Pope Francis defines as "the technocratic paradigm," a religion without dogmas, of pure cult. Worship of money and power, proprietary individualism, the trafficking of everything, first and foremost human life.

A religion "illuminated" by scientism, by "everything is explainable and what is not does not exist." The religion of war and weapons, of the devastation of Mother Earth in the name of profit. The religion of "I am God." We are afraid of millennial religions, but not of this one.

Because if we confronted ourselves with the others, whether we believe in them or not, we will always find a story of rebellion, of conflict against the status quo and against that part of us fascinated by evil, by oppression, by the omnipotence of being able to inflict anything on the other. We will find what challenges us, for how we live this life, for how we make others live it.

This, then, is the religion of our times: it has parasitized every other present in the history of humanity, and is about to build its "Kingdom": we see it at work every day.

About Mediterranea Saving Humans: In the summer of 2018 the idea of Mediterranea was born; born out of indignation over the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and the closed-port policy. In a very short time, people and associations working together in a civil society platform and started to organize rescues. Over the years Mediterranea has grown more and more and has become an Association of Social Promotion (APS). Today it is made up of sea and land crews with over 3700 active members in some 40 territories in Italy, Europe and the United States.

The text above is a working translation of the reflection first published in Italian

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

30 March 2024, 11:10