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Italy: A journey of faith through displacement

Faith can play an important role in the lives of the forcibly displaced. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Sunday, December 18, 2016

(Rome) December 18, 2016 — Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, speaking in Geneva in December 2012, said "for the vast majority of uprooted people there are few things as powerful as their faiths in helping them cope with fear, loss, separation and destitution."

Faith plays an important role for displaced persons as we seek answers to the many questions that we have regarding the pain and suffering that we have gone through. For most of us, our faith in God is what keeps us going in the midst of the many challenges that we face. Our faith is constantly tested. 

In Hebrews 11.1 Saint Paul defines faith as the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see. This faith is what give us the hope for light at the end of the tunnel in which many displaced persons find themselves. 

My family's journey

It is a daily struggle to walk in faith in the midst of displacement. In January 2014 my family and I fled Kenya, the country that we had called home all our lives, to an uncertain future in Italy. 

From our flight to Italy, the asylum application process, and rebuilding our lives in a foreign land, we walked this journey of faith believing in a future that we could not see. In the words of Saint Ignatius, we saw and continue to see God in all things, both the good and the bad. 

At times, we have been in such darkness that we could hardly see which way to turn. The transition has not been easy on my family, leaving everything behind: a good house, good jobs, a car, and all our friends and family. The life of a refugee is not an easy one. There are many challenges including the lack of employment, housing, and proper documentation. 

Worse for me is the feeling of not belonging, of not being human. As a refugee every day you cling on to the hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. This hope and our faith in God is what have kept our family together through the past two and a half years despite all the difficult times that we have faced. 

During this journey there has been a constant hunger within all of us for the bread of hope. In the early days of our displacement we did not see any light. Sometimes it was easy for pessimism to take over our lives. Life seemed like endless pain with a painful end. 

When all seems hopeless, faith and prayer is what keeps our family going. My mother says that without prayer we are nothing. Many times I would hear her in the next room praying long after most had fallen asleep. 

Every day we continue to gather after dinner for family prayers. In the darkness of displacement your faith is constantly tested but we have seen that through the darkness there is light and that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. 

Two and a half years after we arrived in Italy, we have begun to slowly rebuild our lives. My mother now works at a Catholic organization, and my sister Maria is now in high school. For me, having arrived in Italy a young traumatized man, I had no hope for my life. 

Through the grace of God and the kindness of good Samaritans from the Jesuit Refugee Service and Roma Tre University, I was able to continue my education and get a master's degree in Human Development and Food Security. 

We have moved out from the Capuchin house that had been hosting us since our arrival two and a half years ago and now we live in our own house as a family. The future looks bright. Despite our changing fortunes we still have not forgotten God, who has made mountains move for us. We still make a point of gathering every night before sleeping for prayers and thanksgiving.

Through faith and prayers we have learned to forgive not only those who put us in this situation but also ourselves. As my mother always says "I forgave them and I am now at peace."

Antony Mukui, Jesuit Refugee Service International Office