Italy – Fr Antúnez: "Ready to go anywhere with the Pope to work for peace in Ukraine"

25 March 2022

(ANS - Turin) - Fr Daniel Antúnez, SDB, President of Missioni Don Bosco, returned to Italy a few days ago from a trip that brought him to meet with Salesians from Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine - in Lviv - and is handling the reception of a group of 39 refugees in Valdocco. "We want to be militants for peace," he says in response to those who generate war and violence. Fr Antúnez adds: "If the Pope will be in the condition to go in person, I and many others are ready to accompany him."

The President of "Missioni Don Bosco" is moved - emotionally - as he meets some people fleeing the Ukraine without a destination, without anything or almost anything with them. At the same time, he has to remain focused, to work both in organizing the aid to be brought to those who have remained in Ukraine, and in welcoming the refugees directly. A small part of them is arriving in Italy, but it is important to make concrete gestures to respond to the demand for hospitality. Hence the proposal to open the doors of Valdocco, the Mother House of the Salesians, to host mothers with children, some pregnant, and a few men allowed to leave because they were unable to fight.

"Missioni Don Bosco" has also received from the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, the task of acting as leader for the international solidarity organizations promoted by the Salesian Congregation in Italy. "After the first spontaneous relief efforts, it is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the aid. The exodus from the country requires the utmost respect for the dignity and rights of every person, starting with unaccompanied children and single women. The influx of goods must not create problems of storage and distribution," warns Fr Antúnez.

Today the Salesians are a reliable interlocutor for the local authorities and for the refugees. For this reason, an immediate program of interventions tailored to the needs of the communities has been set up. For example, a van was immediately purchased that the Salesians of Krakow use to take the requested goods to Ukraine and to return with those who are fleeing.

In addition, the houses supported by "Missioni Don Bosco" in various locations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries have been converted into centers for relief operations, with an eye to "afterwards" when - hopefully soon - the Ukrainians will be able to return to live in their cities and will need "normality".

For the Salesian NGO, this immense work is not an exceptional event. "We have a constant comparison with the situation in Syria or Tigray, where equally devastating wars have created death and destruction, and the flight of millions of refugees," Fr Antúnez points out. "Today the media narrative does not show us this. We work with missionaries against hunger, thirst, loss of home and future in many of the world's many ‘hotspots’. We would like to start from the plight of Ukraine to re-propose what the Pope calls 'war’s lack of consciousness', that is, the conversion of investment from weapons to the fight against the poverty among peoples. Conversion begins with ourselves, in the heart of every man. Every selfishness taken to the extreme generates violence, evil, war," concludes the president of Missioni Don Bosco.

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ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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