Malta Catholics ask government - 'How can we call ourselves Christians and then leave people drowning at sea'

Malta Catholics ask government: “How can we call ourselves Christians and then leave people drowning at sea?”

(Source: CD/Catholic Voices Malta)

“How can we call ourselves Christians and then leave people drowning at sea?”, Catholics from Malta have asked the government after five refugees died and seven others went missing this week after the boat in which they were crossing the Mediterranean from Libya ran into difficulties and Maltese authorities refused to come to their aid.

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela and top Maltese army officials are being investigated by police over that tragedy and also for the alleged sabotage of another migrant boat.

“We are Christians first” – Full text of the statement issued by 35 Maltese and Gozitan Catholic Movements, Groups, and Organisations

The mere notion that as a Nation we have even considered, let alone have left distressed migrants adrift without aid and risking to drown at sea, shakes us.

These migrants have now been found dead, are missing or have been returned to the unacceptable detention conditions in Libya.

These are not the values that guided our nation and made us who we are. As Christians we need to be reminded that Jesus is on those boats.

While we commend the work of the Government, front line health care professionals and workers and other professionals and workers supporting in combatting this spread of the Covid-19 disease, as well as the efforts of so many voluntary initiatives are being organized to support the front-liners, and those who are marginalized as a result of the pandemic.

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And while we also acknowledge the concern of many with the limitation of our nation’s size and the risks associated with an uncontrolled influx of migrants.

We need to remember the story of the Good Samaritan. We cannot allow these concerns to be a justification for leaving our brothers and sisters in hardship and mortal peril, even more so when these fall within the search and rescue responsibilities of our country.

We are therefore shocked at the decision taken by the Government to deny support to migrants in distress in our search and rescue area, merely on the pretext that our ports have been closed for everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emergencies require special solutions to ensure that while we protect public health from the potential of further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also fulfil our legal and moral obligation to save lives in distress.

If an airplane in difficulties were to request permission for an emergency landing, would this be denied?

How can we call ourselves Christians and then leave people drowning at sea?

Saved immigrants should be quarantined for the recommended 14-day period. Then in collaboration with the EU Commission Malta should pursue a burden-sharing arrangement similar to those applied in the recent months.

We appeal also to the EU and Member States to be more forthcoming in this humanitarian crisis, that is bound to continue, and not offer to share the burden only after an unaided member state suffering a disproportionate burden resorts to brinkmanship.

These are challenging times. Our leaders need to make daily difficult decisions, decisions they never imagined they would have to deal with.

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As we pray for our leaders, we also appeal to them to ensure that their decisions in future are truly guided by life-centred values.


  • Augustinian Youths
  • Azzjoni Kattolika – Ghawdex
  • Azzjoni Kattolika – Malta
  • Bahrija Youth Group
  • CAMYouths Malta
  • Catholic Charismatic Renewal
  • Catholic Voices Malta
  • Centru Katekezi San Lawrenz
  • Centru taz-Zghazagh ta’ Warda
  • Couples for Christ
  • Grupp Żgħażagħ Gudja
  • Malta Catholic Youth Network
  • Moviment ta’ Kana
  • Moviment tal-Fokolari,
  • Christian Life Community
  • Fraternità Sekulari Charles de Foucauld
  • Grupp “Madonna ta’ Pinu”
  • Jesuit Youth Network
  • Koinonia Charismatic Prayer Group Birkirkara
  • KDŻG
  • Legion of Mary
  • MYMA (Malta Youth Minister’s Association)
  • Sixth Form Chaplaincy St Aloysius College
  • Soċjetà MUSEUM – Nisa
  • STEPS Project Malta
  • TAB
  • The Call
  • Eucharistic Youth Movement
  • YouthReach
  • Youth 4 Jesus (Y4J)
  • ZAK (Zaghzagh Azzjoni Katolika)
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Following the issue of the statement four other organisations came forward to endorse it:

  • CFC
  • Oratorju Marija Immakulata
  • Seminary Vocations Centre
  • We2#Young Swatar

More on Novena from Malta:

Malta Bishops ask Vatican to “intervene” with EU to relieve “huge pressures” on national reception, asylum system

Malta archbishop, on Mediterranean refugee rescue: “Saving lives is a moral imperative”

“Unjustifiable”: Maltese, Italian Catholics rip closure of ports to refugees rescued in Mediterranean


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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.