Friday, 24th May 2019: The Archbishop’s address during the open dialogue ‘Lassana Cisse – A story of racial hatred: Responding with Peace’ organised by the Faculty for Social Wellbeing of the University of Malta.
Message by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna – Lecture Theatre 1, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq
I think it is a very important moment for our faith community to carry out a critical analysis of power-complicity in hate speech. I think we cannot forgo a critical attitude to our way of expressing difference and the fact that we are not always agents of inclusion.
I would like to share a number of narratives since I was invited to emphasise on the response with peace.
… his story is a trajectory of rejection and elimination which we need to address.
Lassana Cisse came to our islands, he was in contact with the Kummissjoni Emigranti (Malta Emigrants Commission) and they helped him with processing his papers. Unfortunately, he ended up with one of the more difficult decisions and labels. He was known as a ‘rejected’. That was the story of Lassana. We gave him that label; our institutions and our legislation gave him that label. He was rejected. We are here because in the end he was physically eliminated. So his story is a trajectory of rejection and elimination which we need to address. And he is not the only one.
Through Kummissjoni Emigranti we still offer accommodation for 400 people on a regular basis, but one of the narratives I would like to share is about the Ħal Balzan community, where we have a number of migrants living there. The Ħal Balzan community has adapted to the gift of the presence of these people, especially from Africa. They have also been integrated, probably they need to be integrated more, but if you tell me if there is a good experience of a good neighbourhood in Malta, I will tell you to go to Ħal Balzan.
Last Maundy Thursday, the parish priest of San Ġużepp Ħaddiem in Birkirkara decided to invite residents in his parish from Africa who are living with us, for the special gesture of the washing of the feet. It is a very important gesture for us because this is what Jesus asked us to do. The feedback of the community was so powerful! He was saying we are here to serve you because you are part of us. That is what the gesture of the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday means.
But we also need to invite our friends, especially from Africa and Asia, to be part of our celebrations.
As Ahmed Bugri was saying, on the 11th of June, I have decided to invite a number of young people to the Curia for what I am calling ‘A Good Neighbourhood Dinner’. We need to invite each other to share our narratives and our story. But we also need to invite our friends, especially from Africa and Asia, to be part of our celebrations. It is very important to celebrate together because that will help our commitment.
Unfortunately, we have served Lassana very badly. We need to bring him home to his mother, and we have a fund for that, but we also need to help our young people understand that people of colour who are with us are not guests, they are part of us. They are there to build our community; we need to build our community together. Our community needs to be a community where we respect each other as human beings irrespective of religion, race or sex.
If you want to understand what discrimination means, watch The Green Book.; an extraordinary film which tells you of a true story of a genius pianist who goes from New York down South in the United States in the 1950s. In the film you see him being threatened unfairly the more and more he goes down to the deep South of the United States.
Lassana Cisse’s murder should be a wake-up call for faith leaders … and every one of us.
He is accompanied by a migrant of Italian origin from New York as his bodyguard and driver. In the end, they both finish being discriminated. We need to use the arts but also a culture to create peace among us. I think that Lassana Cisse’s murder should be a wake-up call for faith leaders, and I feel this responsibility as archbishop for the Catholic community on the islands, but for each and every one of us. We need to look to each other and say ‘I am meeting a human being’. That is what really makes us one.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta