ASIA/AFGHANISTAN – Integrating refugees into society: the commitment of the Pro Bambini association in Kabul
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – “Since the end of August, we have been committed to allowing the transfer of our personnel and their families from Afghanistan with the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul, because, having collaborated with a Western and moreover Christian reality, the arrival of the Taliban has put these people in serious danger.
We managed to bring about fifteen families to Italy. From now on, our objective is their effective integration into our society”. This is what Father Matteo Sanavio of the Congregation of Rogationist Fathers and contact person for the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul (PBK) told Agenzia Fides. It is an inter-congregational reality (which welcomes, that is to say, nuns of different Orders) born on the initiative of the Guanellian priest, Fr. Giancarlo Pravettoni in order to respond to the request of John Paul II who, in her Christmas speech in 2001, appealed to the world to save Afghan children.
Pr. Sanavio emphasizes: “Due to the seizure of power by the Taliban, we had to stop our activity. Now, from a distance, we are trying to solve the bureaucratic problems related to the structure, to avoid paying economic consequences: the ministries were taken over by the Taliban, but the managers and employees of the different offices remained the same, we have managed to maintain a certain dialogue with the institutions. At the same time, we are trying to transfer part of our activities to an NGO which has survived on the spot and which has the possibility of continuing its work, which we do not have the right to do because it was based above all on the work of the sisters, with the collaboration of the Afghan personnel. It’s really a pity: our association in Kabul was a beautiful seed of charity and a prophetic sign”. The priest then reports that the end of the activities in Kabul has not interrupted the work of the PBK association: “Now that the prospect of local aid is interrupted, we try to take care of the families who have come here and to accompany them on this path of insertion into Italian reality.Half of the families have been welcomed into religious communities in Rome and We follow them thanks to the program of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which has the experience and the necessary tools to welcome and integrate other families are scattered in various regions of Italy because they have preferred stay in the first places of reception, where the children had already been welcomed in September, at the start of the school year. And given what they had experienced, we decided not to cause trauma on additional costs associated with moving to other cities”.
Children are also the ones who, among the refugees who have arrived in Italy, experience the adaptation phase the best: “It’s easier for them to learn the language and make friends, because they are stimulated by the activities school. We have some difficulties, especially with adults and the elderly, who are often overwhelmed by the temptation to close themselves in the circle of their friendships. It is precisely for this reason that we try to “force” them to leave their homes a bit, to learn the geography of the place in order to access various services and go to offices. In addition, Italian courses for foreigners have been organized for everyone”, explains the priest, who adds: “We have asked the religious communities for a long-term welcome, to give these people time to find a job, to to feel useful. Certainly, at this moment, they feel privileged, because although they had to give up everything, they have regained their freedom. On the other hand, they are not the only ones: we are there as well as the sisters who welcomed them”.
In addition to the staff of the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul, in this last humanitarian corridor of August 2021, the sisters of Mother Teresa were also able to leave, who welcomed and cared for the marginalized of society in the Afghan capital: “Kabul, the Missionaries of Charity cared for what was considered “wasting waste”, that is, children and young people with very serious disabilities, who were abandoned by families on the edge of the street, because in Afghanistan there is no assistance for these people and disability is considered a shame to be hidden. These sisters managed to bring all the children with disabilities to Rome, who now live in their community and are monitored and helped in everything”.
The arrival of Catholics in Kabul dates back to 1921: that year, King Amanullah accepted requests for Catholic religious assistance from Western diplomats. Italy, among the first countries to politically recognize Afghanistan’s independence from England, was immediately involved: Pius XI then decided to entrust the mission to the Barnabites. An agreement was stipulated between the Afghan and Italian governments and the Holy See, which has never been denounced over the years, which included only one real condition: to avoid any form of proselytism among the local population, almost entirely Muslim. In 2002, what was initially a simple spiritual assistance within an embassy, was elevated to the rank of Missio sui iuris by John Paul II. (LF-AP) (Agenzia Fides, 02/24/2022)