“Fuocoammare” – Narrating Europe's biggest Migrant Crisis

Jury president Meryl Streep gave the 2016 Golden Bear award to the Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi for his documentary film 'Fuocoammare' (Fire at Sea), about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, during the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Rosi paid tribute to those who risked their lives to escape war and poverty, and to the people of the Italian island of Lampedusa who welcomed them. "Of course now at this moment my deeper thoughts go to all the people that never arrived to Lampudusa on these journeys of hope," Rosi said in his acceptance speech at the glittering awards ceremony. Rosi’s film shows daily life on the small island, mostly through the eyes of a young boy named Samuele who makes slingshots to shoot at birds and cactuses. In the nearby sea the Italian navy searches for overloaded boats full of refugees dying of suffocation and asphyxiation by diesel fumes and brings survivors back to Lampedusa for treatment and transport to refugee centers.

"I want to dedicate this award to the people of Lampedusa who were always extremely open to accept people arriving there," Rosi said. He noted that the flood of refugees in recent headlines actually began some 30 years ago for the island just off the coast of North Africa. Rosi said he had asked Dr. Pietro Bartolo, a physician on Lampedusa who treats refugees and appears in the film, why the island welcomes the tens of thousands of people who land there. "He told me Lampedusa is a place of fishermen, we are fishermen, and fishermen accept always, anything that comes from the sea. So this may be a lesson that we should learn to accept also anything that comes from the sea." Rosi said.

But what are the implications, in this disrupting migrant crisis, for Europe's own political, cultural and religious profile? Let's consider three aspects of it.

1. A European Humanitarian Crisis

This migrant crisis is not only Italian, it's also European. More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a political crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people. The vast majority arrived by sea but some migrants have made their way over land – principally via Turkey and Albania. Winter has not stemmed the flow of people, with 135,711 people reaching Europe by sea since the start of 2016, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The European migrant issue accelerated to crisis in 2015 when a rising number of refugees and migrants made the journey to the European Union(EU) to seek asylum, traveling across the Mediterranean Sea or through Southeast Europe. Of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58% were men, 17% women and 25% children.The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels in April 2015, when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.

The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts and crises in several Asian and African countries, which increased the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2014 to almost 60 million, the highest level since World War II.Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex's Operation Triton in November 2014. In the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy as the first EU country of arrival, becoming, in the summer of 2015, the starting point for a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to northern Europe – mainly Germany and Sweden. Since April 2015, the European Union has struggled to cope with the crisis, increasing funding for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean and devising plans to fight migrant smuggling. The EU launched Operation Sophia and proposed a new quota system to relocate and resettle asylum seekers among member states to alleviate the burden on the external borders of the Union. Individual countries have at times reintroduced border controls within the Schengen Area, and rifts have emerged between countries willing to accept asylum seekers and others trying to discourage their arrival.

According to Eurostat, EU member states received over 1.2 million first time asylum applications in 2015, a number more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden, and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita. The main countries of asylum-seeker citizenship, accounting for more than half the total, were Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. A European Cultural crisis

But Europe's migrant crisis is not only humanitarian and political. It's also cultural. The foreign-born population residing in the EU in 2014 amounted to 33 million people, or 7% of the total population of the 28 EU countries (above 500 million people). By comparison, the foreign-born population is 1.63% in Japan, 7.7% in Russia, 13% in the United States, 20% in Canada and 27% in Australia. Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, excluding asylum seekers and refugees, immigrated into the EU each year using regular means. In other words, there are countries and continents with a higher percentage of migrants than Europe. But today, the “migrants crisis” added to the old difficult integration of legal migrant workers and particularly the recent terrorism alert (Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels), is pushing Europe to enlarge the analysis and assessment of its cultural project and profile.

Europeans, perhaps for the first time in history, are confronted with cultural diversity in extraordinary and unique ways: linguistic plurality, radical ethnic differences, differentiated kinship systems, geographical diversity, parallel religious mind-sets, alternative medicines, etc. Europeans formerly managed to overcome and dismantle diversity by imposing their normative European abstract universalism onto every culture and nation in the world. This can be found in arts as much as in literature, in science as in theology. Such reductive cultural unity would like us to naively believe that polyphony, sociology, philosophy or science just started two or three centuries ago in Europe. And when these cultural differences came nearer, incarnated in the migrant workers Europe welcomed philanthropically, instead of entering in a true dialogue with them Europe just superficially applied this abstract universalism through powerful and sophisticated cultural strategies such as assimilationism and multiculturalism.

a. The assimilation model.

This first model of western universalism, coming from the French liberal tradition, bases integration on the idea of equality, as achieved through the full adoption of the rules and values of the dominant society and through the avoidance of any consideration of diversity. This republican assimilationist model promotes the need to respect common legal values and principles that are shared by all in order to foster a cohesive, inclusive society. It is based on the idea of mono-culturality and full adoption, by submission or absorption, to the rules and values of the dominant society. Thus the minority group becomes culturally indistinguishable from the majority.

b. The multicultural model.

This second model comes from the Anglo-Saxon pluralistic tradition, present also in countries like Sweden, Netherlands or Belgium. Integration is based on the respect and protection of cultural diversity within a framework of shared belonging. Here the cultural diversity is acknowledged, protected and even promoted. The state doesn’t try to eliminate or stigmatize cultural diversity but rather tries to adequately administrate it by assigning appropriate spaces and moments in which they can be freely manifested and cultivated. Here monoculturality is apparently overcome and gives place to cultural pluralism.

But the general problem is that all this remains a non-communicative and a non-dialogical pluralism. Each culture grows up in its own corner somehow segregated and excluded from the real present history where supremacy remains attributed uniquely to the dominant culture, with the cynical alibi that they have a formal and juridical recognition of other cultural sensibilities. Formal recognition of cultural diversity is just an elementary and rudimental kind of recognition that paradoxically can cohabit and even justify cultural subordination and segregation.

In face of the failure of the assimilationist and multicultural models, as the recent tragic events in Brussels also show, Europe urgently needs to articulate a richer understanding and new strategies to interact and dialogue with its different ethnic and cultural groups that no longer merely come from the outside but are now structurally part of it.

3. A European Religious Crisis

This European humanitarian and cultural crisis is also a religious one, but of a new type. It is not a classical crisis linked to the decline of traditional religiosity or to the presence of some radical religious views. The new challenge is how to allow and facilitate an interactive religious pluralism that includes, on one side, the non-believer and, on the other side, cultural groups that are structurally religious as, for instance, are the majority of Europe’s migrants. Christianity is no longer – culturally or theologically – the unique religion of Europe and it is no longer the only “true” religion. If we fail to recognize this basic cultural shift the “integration” as much as the “reception” of migrants will be partially a failure.

We European Adventists, and Adventist in general, would be mistaken if we consider this to be just a migrant crisis to be solved with some generous ADRA-like philanthropic interventions. Adventism is challenged to become an open, inclusive and flexible religion ready to articulate itself in fidelity to its own history and to the Bible – but also in relation to the outside world, exemplified by the new cultural and religious milieu of the migrants arriving in Europe.

We must resist a monolithic and homogeneous understanding of culture and religion, whether it comes from Europeans or from the migrants themselves. Adventism is not free from these anomalies. And “Fuocoammare”, Gianfranco Rosi's film, reminds us Adventists living in Europe that a noble and healthy cultural-religious model is necessarily relational and inclusive.

Hanz Gutierrez is a Peruvian theologian, philosopher and physician. Currently he is Chair of the Systematic Theology Department at the Italian Adventist Theological Faculty of “Villa Aurora” and director of the CECSUR (Cultural Center for Human and Religious Sciences) in Florence, Italy.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7413

interesting and compelling, at a time when the U.S. Political debate centers on building walls, killing the families of combatants, deporting enmass,separating families, expanding nuclear weapons. (Disgusting). T Z


“O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?”
-Psalms 13:1


The late U.S. presidential historian Theodore White, in his provocative book many years ago on the fall of Richard Nixon, speaks of how America differs from every other society in human history. He writes of how, unlike Frenchmen, Germans, Russians, Englishmen, and just about everyone else on earth, America is “the only peaceful multi-racial civilization in the world” (Breach of Faith, pp. 322-323), that if America did not exist it would be impossible to believe so many alien strains could ever behave like a nation.

It helps us understand why the United States is the only political power in Bible prophecy represented by the same metaphor used to symbolize Jesus and His followers (John 1:20; 10:4; Rev. 13:11). America is a community of choice like no other society on earth.

Even with the racial and cultural tensions that have attended the American experiment, it is fair to say Europe has had far less experience in the peaceful guidance and nurture of multi-ethnic societies. The migrant crisis depicted in this article will increasingly test Europe’s resilience, even as it is presently testing America’s.

My prayer is that Seventh-day Adventists in these countries—all countries, to be sure—will lead the way in fostering the peaceful and welcome-filled assimilation of those from diverse cultures who seek a home in these lands of comparative promise. The model of strangers and pilgrims seeking a permanent home is one of the most powerful representations of God’s church on earth and the better land toward which we journey (Heb. 11:1 3-15). Few Biblical injunctions offer a stronger imperative for the Christian to extend a hospitable hand to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses seeking freedom, and the tempest-tossed of this earth.


Hans has again called us to be the people of God in ways yet strange to us. I wonder whether the fact that so many refugees are Muslims who are now seen as the “other” to the West, more so than almost any population group in the world today. The numbers that have flowed into Europe (and Jordan, an Islamic nation), have not been vetted because of the intensity of the flow into these cultures.

The singer Bono has suggested that we in the West develop a Marshall Plan for this crisis which will pour funds into helping the refugees rebuild their lives in place, wherever that may be, even in refugee camps. I have no idea how we can properly address this challenge.


My prayer is that Seventh-day Adventists in these countries—all countries, to be sure—will lead the way in fostering the peaceful and welcome-filled assimilation of those from diverse cultures who seek a home in these lands of comparative promise.

Amen Kevin. I pray the same prayer.


A Marshall Plan sounds like a good idea.
The problem I see is that the WEST, Europe and America, is on the verge of being bankrupt.
The West has no way to afford it.
America already has an infrastructure of a Marshall Plan that is heavily against those who are working VS those who are not. Those who are paying taxes and those who are not. Those who are in “government employment” through receiving many of the government benefits.
There are actually a lot of homeless persons who would like to have a job – at least here in Macon, GA – but they have difficulty obtaining one. there is a lot of competition for the few job openings that there are.


hillary, long ago, pushed for a no-fly zone over syria…the theory was that the guarantee of a safe haven within syria would stem the refugee tide, at least out of syria…unfortunately obama believed enforcing a no-fly zone would inexorably lead to boots on the ground, and russian resistance made it easy to foresee even more problems…i think this is an instance in which hillary’s relatively hawkish instincts were more correct than obama’s…i don’t think a truly great president can be so thoroughly averse to war…

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The U.S. has been for too long, involved in every conflict in the world. And what have we accomplished? Since WW II what has changed to bring peace in all those places we’ve been involved? The worst idea was to “instill democracy” on a people who were totally unprepared for such a government. Governments must be established from the ground up, not from the top down. When will the U.S. ever learn to let people choose their own system of government? We cannot protect all the world’s people from themselves. We’ve done that for years while other nations are able to give free health care and education to their citizens because they don’t attempt to police the world. The U.S. citizens are not benefiting but suffering because of these military actions.

Who is benefiting from the free trade with the U.S.? We’ve given away the store and who is left to help us?

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The Theodore White statement sounds good but it’s just not correct. I think people in Canada, Australia, NZ and indeed many parts of Europe are vastly more peaceful than the US and didn’t need a civil war to prove how tolerant and successful they are with cultural diversity.

While the American “experiment” has been a tremendously successful one and largely a force for good, I have always thought that part of the genius of American “exceptionalism” has been the inexplicable belief of the immigrant, legal or otherwise, and the marginalised, to believe that they can have their piece of the “American dream”. The odds of a black kid from a bad part of town “making it” are very small. That kid would have a far better chance in many other countries for numerous reasons around issues of safety, housing, crime, drugs, education, low wages, poor welfare net etc.

The US multicultural experience seems to work partially because the mythology of the founding fathers has been so successfully marketed over the generations that the reality of deeply segregated communities are overlooked.

Rather than feeling too comfortable with the apparent differences with parts of Europe, perhaps Americans should pretend drug and other crime related deaths are ethnic tensions and the picture isn’t so pretty.

I guess it’s lucky that the black and white communities in the US have largely shared a common faith. One can only imagine what the US would be like with all its guns if it were different.

The abysmal MISERY of the migrants, living in squalid tent cities, and travelling on foot over large distances, with little children in tow, is devastating.

The desperation of multiple thousands, willing to risk the lives of themselves and their children, in flimsy overcrowded rafts, hardly seaworthy; the countless families drowned at sea ( not a pleasant way to die!)— all of these, force me to switch channels while watching the evening news. I cannot STOMACH the ghastliness of the calamity.

Which brings me to my eternal question: Do Muslims have guardian angels, or are only Adventists so blessed?

Angels, if they exist, cannot “switch channels”. They are forced to watch their protégés drowning, including little toddlers and infants.

Does God run a psychiatric clinic in heaven for Angels suffering from PTSD?
Or are Angels robotic automatons, without feelings, compassion or caring?
Or does God assign them guardian duty only thirty minutes per century, so they cannot bond with their human charges?

These are the individuals which EGW calls “the universe” and whom she says are supposedly pontificating as to whether God is good and Satan is evil.

Well good luck EGW, if the misery of the migrant crisis does not convince them, what will?

But then we have had the Holocaust and multiple other genocides, also plagues, pestilences, famines, tortures, wars AD INFINITUM, over SIX MILLENIA,

It seems “the heavenly host” is either imbecilic, incompetent, or totally lacking in compassion.

Or is the “great controversy” a total myth and fallacy?



May I add a simple, everydays problem - and please : show me some solutions :
A muslim does not react to the stopsignal given by a policewoman : A muslim man does not accept any order given by a woman. A muslim in the role of the defendant refuses to answer a questio by he judge , a woman : Mulim men do not answer womens questions. A muslima, also in the role of being the defendant, does not anwewr the questions of the judge - Without being allowed by her husband her religion forbids givingan an answer - and her husband is somewhere. Kids refuse to greet the lady teacher and refuse to get into a dialoge in teachig the language - - - Have a lady physician on duty in the emergency unit and a muslim after a feud is delivered there wt a knife between his ribs - - Sexual harrassment well, a woman not at least wearing a scarf or a hidschab is an object without any personal dignity - - -

We have a tradition in being flooded by displaced persons and refugees here in Viennna around 1945, with refugees 1956 and 68 .- - -and 98/90. And with very generously donating, helping. The religion gap now is a very new element we have until now no strategies for coping with it.


I find it surreal to see the most potent Muslim incursion into Europe since 1683 characterized as a “migrant crisis.” It is a crisis, alright, but not for the invading Islamic army of jihad. Rather, it is an existential crisis for Europe.

The assimilationist model does not work, because there is nothing for the Muslims to assimilate to, even if they were disposed to assimilate, which they are not. At the core of Europe is nothing but a self-hating nullity; its elites despise Christianity and capitalism, and all of their other cultural traditions, as well as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. Obviously, no one from any other culture is going to be attracted to a “culture” about which the most powerful and influential people living in that culture have nothing good to say.

The fallback position is multi-culturalism, which holds that there will be no assimilation–and that to even demand assimilation is imperialistic, colonial, and grossly immoral–but that large Muslim populations, isolated in “no-go” emirates where the nominal government’s writ does not run, will continue to grow, and continue to grow hostile to the culture of the larger nation in which they reside. From there they will send out terrorists to maim and destroy, just as the Muslims in Brussels sent out terrorists to bomb Paris, and later Brussels itself. The authorities, who are already dhimmis-in-waiting moving toward full dhimmitude, will react by peddling the self-evidently insane nonsense that Islamic terrorism is not actually Islamic, and by trying to suppress news of Muslim mass sexual assaults (as the German government did for a week regarding the mass sexual assault in Cologne on New Years’ Eve), and by criminally prosecuting those who publicly express doubts about the sanity of mass Muslim immigration, as governments throughout Western Europe are doing.

Europe has been here before, in the early 4th Century, when a religion constituting probably significantly less than 10% of the population was able to become the official state religion, because the 90% plus were nothing but degenerate pagans, who worshiped anything, everything, and nothing, but mostly worshiped their own appetites. History repeats itself.


I’m starting to think maybe building safe zones in countries like Syria isnt such a bad idea. I began to consider this after reading a story from The Guardian, April 13:

Almost 6,000 refugee children went missing last year, says Germany

At the end of March, a group of MEPs warned European governments that underage refugees were so unprotected they were in danger of falling victim to pan-European bands of criminals who could exploit them for prostitution, slavery, or trafficking in drugs or human organs.

But experts at Unicef said part of the challenge with tackling exploitation of refugee children is that authorities still have very little understanding of who is targeting them, or where trafficked young people might end up.

“We know that thousands and thousands of children are simply unaccounted for, and the most horrifying thing of all is that we just have no idea where they are or what’s happening to them, and it’s that complete absence of information that should terrify us the most,” said Lily Caprani, the deputy executive director of Unicef UK.

She said existing trafficking routes sent victims into the sex industry, drugs trade and domestic servitude, but that the scale of the refugee crisis might transform criminal networks.

This is not to say that Europe should no longer accept refugees. Just that new strategies need to be implemented. Many of the children come alone and are therefore vulnerable. At least safe zones would keep them together with their families. It seems Europe is being overwhelmed and cannot cope.


I think Obama should get over there and turn those refugees around. After all, he is the one who recently said “America and Islam overlap and share common principles of justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Then he said “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance, it is a religion of peace.”

Millions of people are dying to get out of those “tolerant, peaceful” Islamic countries.

Maybe Michelle could get another hashtag campaign going. That would solve it.

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Freedom of speech is a sacred American right, so lashing out at our president and his wife in this ugly, impetuous manner is something I must accept and it is a part of their job description. But it is my duty to argue against these mean spirited statements passionately. My understanding is that this is a forum in which the teachings of Jesus are respected, prized above others. So I humbly ask, "Were the Canaanite people of the woman whose daughter was healed less onerous than the Muslim cultures of today’s migrants? Were the Samaritans of that time paragons of virtue and loyalty to God?"
Add to this the fact that the vast majority of these migrants share our loathing of Daesh (so called Islamic State), and are fleeing it’s brutality for their very lives, and I have great difficulty understanding such cynicism from followers of Jesus. Why not look to the Old Testament as well. Were the Moabites of the time of Ruth less brutal than Syria or Iraq? Even Leviticus commands caring for the stranger and the sojourner, for “you are all strangers and sojourners in the land, saith the Lord.”