The Lampedusa Cross


The Lampedusa Cross displayed in the British Museum
Photo via The British Museum

Colin Lowther and Liz Waid tell about a man who is making symbols of hope for people who need them. What gives you hope?

Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Sometimes people and objects from different parts of the world become connected in unexpected ways.

Voice 2  

Do you know how the following things are connected?

Voice 1  

Five hundred people from Eritrea and Somalia in Africa.

Voice 2  

A boat.

Voice 1  

A carpenter or wood worker from Italy.

Voice 2  

A radio.

Voice 1  

The world-famous British Museum in the United Kingdom.

Voice 2  

They are all linked by a small cross made from wood. Today’s Spotlight is on that small wooden cross - the Lampedusa Cross.

Voice 1  

One night in October 2013 a boat was on the Mediterranean Sea. The wooden boat was too full. Over 500 men, women and children were on it. They were refugees from Eritrea and Somalia in Africa. They had escaped from the dangers of war, poverty, or oppression. And they were looking for freedom, safety, and a new life in Europe.

Voice 2  

The refugees were tired. Many were sleeping. The people who were awake saw lights in the far distance. Land! But then something terrible happened. Fire! Everyone was very frightened. They screamed and cried loudly. Then the boat started to sink. Some people fell into the sea. One refugee, Selomun, later told the Guardian,

Voice 3  

“I was woken by people screaming. I had three or four seconds to react as the boat rolled over. Most people slid out of the boat and fell in the water, but I held on.”

Voice 1  

Then the boat sank under the water. Many of the refugees drowned. The others waited in the sea for rescue. Hours later some of them were saved by boats from the island of Lampedusa near Sicily, in Italy. Fanus was rescued. She told the Guardian about her experience,

Voice 4  

“They were the longest hours of my life. The rescuers saw my hands moving in the water, but my head was almost under.”

Voice 2  

Only one 151 people survived. The rescuers took them to Lampedusa. Francesco Tuccio lived there. He did not know the refugees. But he saw their suffering. He saw them crying for friends and family who had drowned. He told Refugee Stories Network what he saw.

Voice 5  

“I saw suffering. I even felt it with my own hands. I saw many dead people. Dead children. I held dead children. It was horrible.”

Voice 1  

Tuccio wanted to do something for these refugees. He was a carpenter. So he used his skill with wood to do something special. He found wood from their wrecked boat. He thought the wood smelled of salt, the sea and even suffering. Tuccio knew the refugees were Christian believers. So from this wood he made each refugee a Christian symbol of hope. He made each of them a small wooden cross to wear.

Voice 2  

In the next few years many other people tried to get to Europe by travelling across the Mediterranean Sea. The International Organisation for Migration estimated that over 1,000,000 people arrived in Europe by sea in 2015. But many boats were wrecked in the sea. More than 3,700 migrants died.

Voice 1  

During this time, Tuccio continued to make crosses for more refugees. He believed it was his duty as a man of faith to ease the suffering of those who survived. He also wanted more people to understand what was happening. And so he made larger crosses for many churches in Italy. In 2015, the BBC talked to him for a radio programme. Tuccio told them that he wanted to honour both those who died and those who survived. He explained,

Voice 5  

“Every time I make a cross I feel like I am saving a person. And for those migrants who made it to land, I want the cross to represent a new starting point. The cross is a symbol of re-birth and rescue and I want these people to have a better life.”

Voice 2  

In the United Kingdom, Jill Cook heard the radio programme. Cook works at the British Museum in London. This famous museum stores and shows objects of permanent value to world history and culture. Cook was moved by Tuccio’s kindness. But she was also excited. A cross made by Tuccio could represent ALL the refugees who had travelled to Europe during this period in history. It could tell their story. She explained to the BBC why an object is important for the museum,

Voice 6  

“We do not show photographs or images at the museum. We only show objects. And so the migrants, who have nothing, were always going to be unseen. And then I heard about the carpenter and his crosses.”

Voice 1  

Cook asked Tuccio to make a cross for the museum. He was happy and proud to do this. He knew that people from all over the world visit the British Museum. He later told the BBC,

Voice 5  

“I would like future generations to remember when they look at the wood that it is made from suffering. And I would like them to remember that the cross is the symbol of freedom and the coming together of people.”

Voice 2  

Tuccio made the cross for the museum from wood from the boat that was wrecked in October, 2013. Cook remembers that everyone at the Museum went quiet when they saw the cross. Neil MacGregor was in charge of the Museum. He decided that the simple wooden cross was a very special object. He said,

Voice 7  

“This simple, yet moving, object is a special gift to the collection. Mr Tuccio’s kindness will allow all visitors to the Museum to consider this important time in the history of Europe. It is a great migration which may change the way we understand our continent. In my time at the Museum we have collected many wonderful objects. All of them have tried to shine a light on the needs and hopes that all humans share.”

Voice 1  

Cook still feels strong emotion when she looks at the Lampedusa Cross. Tears come to her eyes. Many visitors to the museum react in the same way. The cross is only about 38 centimetres high. And the blue, green and yellow paint on the wood is damaged. But it is a powerful symbol of both suffering and hope in our time. One visitor told the BBC,

Voice 8  

‘I think the symbolism of it is amazing. For a symbol of hope to be made from the wreckage it is beautiful.’

Voice 2  

But the Lampedusa cross is more than a memory of the past. Refugees still sail across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe. This is still dangerous. And thousands die in the sea every year.

Voice 1  

The writer of this programme was Katy Blake. The producer was Bruce Gulland. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this programme again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. The programme is called ‘The Lampedusa Cross’.

Voice 2  

Look out for our listening app in the Google Play store and on iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight programme. Goodbye.

Question:

What gives you hope? Is there a symbol for your hope?

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