Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

Versione italiana | Search in site:

​The Righteous in the Mediterranean

editorial by Gabriele Nissim

Flower wreath to commemorate migrants dead at sea

Flower wreath to commemorate migrants dead at sea intelligonews

In the Italian Parliament a historic event has occurred. For the first time, the definition of Righteousness has been employed to bring about those who devote themselves to rescue migrants fleeing hunger and persecutions across the Mediterranean.

The greater merit goes to Hon. Milena Santerini, who presented the exemplary figures who act today in the same spirit as those who assumed moral responsibility for confronting the plight of the victims of Nazism.

What the Righteous in the Mediterranean and those of the Holocaust have in common is that they, albeit under completely different circumstances, acted in the chasm left behind by the international institutions.

Then the world was deaf to the doomed fate of the Jews, while today a great deal of indifference surrounds the refugees fleeing through Italy in the majority of the European countries. The European Commission has not yet reached an agreement for the relocation of 40,000 immigrants landed on the Italian coasts, while in Italy some regions in the North run by the Northern League and Forza Italia refuse hosting the immigrants.

To this indifference adds up the failure of many Middle Eastern countries in the hands of armed gangs and fundamentalist groups, such as in Syria and Libya.

We would then expect a great international initiative to tackle the African and Mid-Eastern situation globally, but instead there is no political action able to put an end to mass extermination in Syria; and Europe, despite the efforts by Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, is not able to create a stable government in Libya, while Isis conquers new territories everyday.

Unless the situation changes in those areas, we will assist in the next months to a true exodus of hundreds thousands migrants to the Italian coasts. No one dares say – if not in a demagogic and instrumental way – that, unless the problem is dealt with from the roots, we will soon be faced with an ungovernable situation which can be destabilizing for Italy, and also within the European community.

This is why, as it was recalled in the meeting in Rome, being Righteous means not waiting for the world to change direction, but taking up responsibility anyway. Even though it is a drop in the ocean, the initiative of rescuers does not only remind us of the heroism of the rescuers of the past, but can also perhaps become a moral model to break the code of silence that rules these days.

It can seem paradoxical under these tragic circumstances, but the example of those who today perform good deeds in the Mediterranean sea can become a reason of emulation and national pride.

Let us think of the daily rescues performed by the Italian Coast Guard. What is striking is not only the professionalism of these men and women, but also how th lives of many of these commanders and mariners deeply changed. Some of them offered to adopt children who lost their parents at sea, others committed themselves to prompt the local populations to take care of the rescued.

Regina Catambrone, together with her husband Christopher, founded Moas, an Ong supported by them with 8 million dollars, and made available a 40 meters-long boat, rescue rafts and two drones. She clearly explained that seeing the abysses of humanity in that sea, at a certain point it does change your life.

On those refugee ships, abandoned to their fate in the sea, those creatures are treated worse than slaves, in conditions that remind us of the survival struggle of the Jews in the concentration camps before death.

The smugglers, who get the money before the trip, do not care at all about the lives of those people and let them die without any mercy. Those who witness all this cannot remain silent.

An association was created, led by Cristina Cattaneo, professor at the University of Milan, whose aim reminds of the grief cry of the great Russian poet Anna Achmatova, launched at the time of Soviet terror, as she wrote that in the face of the corpses thrown into mass graves we at least had to give a name to the victims not to forget about them. This was the demand of the relatives who queued in front of the prison of Leningrad to try in vain to know about their dear ones.

“I wanted to call them all by name, but they took the lista way from me and I did not know what to do. From the wretched sounds I could hear from them I wove a large mantle. I shall remember them everywhere.”

The despair of the families of the sea victims, who are unable to bury their dear ones, urged Cristiana Cattaneo to start a pilot project to give a name, through a DNA search, to those unrecognizable corpses.

History tragically repeats itself.

Analysis by Gabriele Nissim, Chairman of Gariwo, the forest of the Righteous

12 June 2015


whoever saves a life saves the entire world

In Yad Vashem's Memorial, in Jerusalem, the Garden of the Righteous remembers those who tried to rescue the Jews in the Holocaust: those who hidd them, helped them expatriate with forged documents, nourished them or gave them a job; those who, seeing them suffer, helped them somehow instead of remaining indifferent.In Yerevan's Wall of Remembrance the memorial stones remember the rescuers of Armenians during the genocide of 1915, those who tried to stop the massacre, refused to obey orders, sheltered children, reported the extermination that was occurring beneath their hopeless eyes to the world's public opinion.
In 1994 in Rwanda, some Tutsies who were hunted by the interahamwe militias were protected by neighbours, friends - some times strangers, too - belonginf to the Hutu ethnic group, who refused participating in the "man hunt" with machetes that had been planned by other Hutus to exterminate the country's Tutsi minority.
While ethnic cleansing was ravaging Bosnia leading to the murder of thousands innocent victims some people trying to escape the massacre were helped in the same way by neighbours, school mates, friends, or strangers, who were members of other ethnic groups.
Still todate, in many places in the world, there are such rescuers who risk and sometimes lose their lives in the attempt of helping the victims, and become victims themselves. Other times they lose their jobs, wellbeing, social status or they are imprisoned, tortured, cast out. At any rate, even before starting their endeavours, they know they run a serious risk, but they prefer doing so rather than bearing the weigh of remorse for remaining indifferent for the rest of their lives. Everytime by their action they "save the entire world", as stands in the Talmud.

Our Editorials


Pietro Kuciukian's words

supporting the call "We make a dream, together"

Featured story

Jean-Sélim Kanaan

aid worker killed in the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad