A Catholic Priest Advocates for Illegal Immigrants

To the Editor:

I am a Catholic priest in Catalonia, Spain devoted to the cause of "illegal" immigrants. On Christmas night, 2002, Samuel from Ghana, in Africa, was burned alive in the streets in Barcelona. A few months ago, in an apartment where he was sleeping, with other south Saharians, he had pleaded to me, kneeling down (when I told them I could no longer pay the rent): "Pastor, what will happen to us when we go back to the street".

What happened to him is that he had to go, with all the other south Saharians, to one of the largest Okupa house in Europe at the time, the abandoned military buildings in the outskirts of Barcelona (almost 1000 illegal immigrants from all over where "living" there). It was a horror movie "house". On Christmas night 2002, he didn't go there to sleep (I don't blame him). Instead he stayed in the street where he was burned alive by a street gang.

This experience has made me especially sensitive to the misery of the Third World, which leads to so much human suffering.

In a recent article in a Catalan newspaper, Avui, the president of Nigeria (apparently the hope against corruption in Africa) put numbers to the great scandal of corruption in the African continent, with the complicity of the financial system in the North. 25% of the GIP in Africa, some 150,000 million dollars is lost every year because of corruption. This money, coming mostly from international aid (your money and mine) to build hospitals, schools and roads, is carted back to the North and deposited in private corrupt accounts, with the complicity of our most respectful financial system.

This keeps Africa in misery and forces its citizens, like Samuel, to flee to the North at the great risk of their lives.

For how long will we tolerate this?

For how long will we claim to defend democracy and human rights and accept in our banks the money from corrupt evil rulers in the south, participating therefore, in their corruption?

Who can change that? You and I can, if we want to!

George Washington, when asked about the viability of converting 13 divided colonies into the United States of America, is said to have answered: "Raise high standards to which the wise and honest can repair, the rest is in the hands of God."

If you are wise and honest, please pass the word.

Do it for Samuel, do it for the billions of Samuels who have a right to a decent living, just like you and me. You and I are not alone, God is with us on this cause.

Fr. Joan Manuel Serra
Catalonia, Spain