Every young person is the son or daughter of everyone, not just his or her parents. Every child born is an inhabitant of the earth, and therefore my neighbour. Europe was founded on this natural and Christian law. Following the example of Abraham and Sarah.
by Luigino Bruni
published in Messaggero di sant'Antonio on 11/07/2018
Recently I’ve been to Spain (Valencia), visiting a reception centre for immigrants (Dorothy Day), where some entrepreneurs of the Economy of Communion are trying to create jobs for young people coming mainly from Africa. In the spontaneous dialogue that was formed someone asked about ten of those young people, all around the age of 20: "What are your dreams?” "To be a mechanic", "a plumber", "a seamstress"..., they answered. As I listened to their words, often mixed with tears (theirs and ours), I understood once again that every young person is the son or daughter of everyone, not just his or her parents. Every child is my child, too, every child that is born is an inhabitant of the earth, and therefore my neighbour. My neighbour is not my geographical, religious or ethnic neighbour: this is one of the great teachings of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Our Europe was founded on this natural and Christian law, we welcomed English and German soldiers who knocked on the doors of our grandparents' homes as frightened fugitives. They had a different uniform from those of their sons at the front, but as soon as they looked into their moist and frightened eyes, they understood that before being "foreigners" they were simple boys, and therefore the sons of some people. And they opened their doors, and hid them, risking their lives, in the cellars and stables, and shared the little bread they had with them. Those young men inside their house made them less safe but more human.
This is Christian Europe, these are the roots, covered with tears and agape, of our great continent. We have been capable of waging fratricidal wars, of the endless horrors of the concentration camps, but we were also able to recognize a boy and a son under a different colour uniform. The civil and economic blessings of post-war Europe were also the result of this great capacity to welcome others, which allowed us to think about the European Community, when wars were still being fought in the mountains. The first letters of the Constitution of the Republic and then of the European economic treaties were written by men and women who had been able to open a door and share their bread, becoming companions (cum-panis) of strangers. Many of them were illiterate, but they were able to write these wonderful words with their flesh, drawing from the deepest kind of humanity.
Today we are experiencing other wars. They are not being fought on our mountains, but in the mountains beyond the sea. Young people continue to arrive, frightened and fleeing, to knock on our doors. But the distance from the Christian pain and pietas of our grandparents and parents makes it much more difficult for us to open our doors, which remain closed too often, and we tend to justify these closures with new-ancient ideologies.
Yet, also today, the boundary between civilisation and barbarism lies precisely on our concrete responses to the dreams of these young people. We can behave like the Cyclops who devoured their guests, or like the inhabitants of Sodom who raped them. Or we can choose to follow the example of the welcoming Phaeacians, or the old Abraham and Sarah who hosted the three men at the oaks of Mamre and then heard them announce the birth of the son of the promise. Three strangers whom they welcomed and who brought them life and a son: in the promised land there are no closed doors.
In the DNA of our humanism both the Cyclops and the Phaeacians are present, just like the inhabitants of Sodom but also Abraham. Each generation must make its own choice; it must say which side it wants to take, if it wants to look at the colour of the uniform or the young men - the sons who wear it. One thing is certain: life, children, the future are only on the side of the Phaeacians and Sara and Abraham. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Letter to the Hebrews 13:2).