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Published on Oct 14, 2015
As the global refugee crisis intensifies, a long-established ministry of radical hospitality in the heart of Rome is ever more critical for those escaping war and persecution.
The crypt of St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church is home to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, where hundreds of refugees can find a breakfast and a host of other resources to survive and to integrate into a new culture.
Because of the sheer numbers of refugees traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to escape war and persecution, many drowning en route, Italy is at the center of the refugee crisis.
Many of The Episcopal Church’s suffragan bishops on Oct. 9 visited the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center to spend time getting to know the refugees and to experience the pivotal role the ministry plays in helping to rebuild their lives and navigate the complicated Italian system as they seek asylum.
The center was dedicated in 1995 and provides sanctuary, advice and assistance for refugees. As well as offering breakfast, the center distributes toiletries and items of clothing, helps with job applications, and provides services for refugees to learn languages and computer skills.
Through a navigator program, a trained cultural mediator accompanies the refugees to asylum hearings or appointments with lawyers and doctors. For more than two years, a group of artisans has been making and selling handicrafts. Each artisan piece is accompanied by a story that advocates and educates about the plight of refugees in Rome. The artisans share proceeds among themselves and donate back to the center.