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29 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 02 November 2013

On the instep of the boot of Italy is the town of Riace, set five miles inland to avoid pirates. It is now the home to a different type of traveller - refugees.

The death of hundreds of North African migrants off the coast of the island of Lampedusa raised an issue Europe wishes it could ignore - the number of migrants willing to pack their families onto dangerous boats to get away from the sometimes brutal regimes that don’t accept their faith.

For Heart and Soul, John Laurenson travels to Riace to meet the migrants who have settled in the ancient town, reviving traditional crafts, repopulating the local school and keeping alive a town that was dying due to its own migration.

He hears the stories of how faith led them to leave their homes, or be tortured and beaten by authoritarian religious groups. And, how that same faith sustained them during their long arduous boat journey and strengthened them as they made this old town their new home

John also meets the parish priest who echoes the words of Pope Francis when he visited Lampedusa earlier this year - that we see, when we look at these people washed up on Europe’s shores, the face of humanity itself, of Christ Himself.

Picture shows local sign 'Riace: Town of Welcome'.


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