· At the root of a criminal phenomenon in expansion which increasingly involves youth ·
Repeated acts of piracy have become increasingly worrying. It is a phenomenon which, as I have repeated on more than one occasion, unfortunately has increased in the last few years throughout the world, not only along the coast of Somalia. Today, according to data released by the IMB Piracy Reporting Center, 398 seafarers are in the hands of pirates; of which 8 are Italian. Responses from the governments involved have been mixed.
There has been news in the last few days, for example, that the maritime militaries of Nigeria, Togo and Benin have decided to enforce greater controls of their coasts, which are infested by pirates, to guarantee greater security of transit in the waters of the region.
In the maritime sector and in international politics, a debate is underway on how to protect sea commerce. The use of alternative routes (long and costly) does not seem to interest ship owners and the idea of using armed personnel on ships which transit in high-risk zones is becoming more popular. All of the solutions proposed so far tend to consider the effects of piracy, and less so, if at all, the causes which have created this criminal phenomenon. Political stability to the region is needed as well as economic incentives and employment formation for young people, to create an attractive alternative to piracy, which offers easy money.
The Apostolate of the Sea, in its commitment to offering pastoral assistance to seafarers and their families, finds itself dealing with the emergency of piracy, especially given the lack of a clear protocol of action codified by different forces, who are also involved in the drama of kidnapping. It would behoove the different actors in the maritime cluster to come together to define procedures for intervening and establishing responsibility to help alleviate the drama which family members are forced to undergo.
During the period that they are held hostage, any action could put the safety of seafarers at risk, and after liberation, it would be opportune to have a plan of action that allows for their physical, psychological and spiritual care, which would continue for more than just the few days after their release. Seafarers, who for months have been threatened and denied their freedom, must be allowed to deal with their physical and mental recovery with the help of specialized persons who can restore their dignity, security, trust, etc.
The Apostolate of the Sea, on occasions when it has been able to obtain useful information, has provided spiritual support and comfort for the families of kidnapped seafarers through the network of Stella Maris centers. Constant recourse to prayer, to offer hope in these moments of uncertainty and phone contact, so that they do not feel alone in the tragedy, are elements which let them know the Church has not abandoned them.
It seems that the majority of people know very little about piracy and its collateral effects on the world economy, and especially on seafarers and their families. News reaches the public when a ship is taken hostage, but then all is forgotten when there is other news or because of the silence of the press, which is generally imposed to favor negotiations and the release of hostages.
Since 90% of the worlds goods travel by sea, the Apostolate of the Sea also has the duty of continuing to bring to public attention the risks that seafarers run in the service of the world economy.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 27, 2020
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