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Rome Reports

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From nearly touching death to embracing the pope, these migrants dreams came true

With the kickoff of Caritas' campaign, “Share the Journey,” many refugees and migrants of various faiths and cultures, who thought they were doomed for death, had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis. 

Yankuba Darboe was one of the young men who shared his experience with the pope. Having to flee his home country of Gambia three years ago, the 21-year-old's horrific story includes being kidnapped and held at ransom, before he made his great escape from the people he calls “criminals.”

Migrant from Gambia
“I saw dead bodies. I saw death. It is a slow death; it is very painful. So one thing that made me cross the Mediterranean was to think about this: maybe the fastest death will be better. I decided to take one boat, to pay for that boat. Thank God it went well. We crossed. We were rescued by the Italian boats after 13-14 hours.”

Yankuba says that after this close encounter with death, he wanted to help others, thus he began working with Caritas to help underage migrants. Both he and another young migrant from Guinea, Berete Ibrahima, have been working with Caritas for two years. They say meeting the pope was like a dream for them

Migrant from Guinea
“I attended the pope's audience today. He really captured my attention, because I was in the middle of everything. I especially liked the passage where he said that the 'poor are the main bearers of hope.' It's fantastic. I like it, because it is beautiful and true.”

Migrant from Gambia
“It was so emotional, seeing the pope close, so close. He hugged me. I said,'No, is this real?' I only see the pope on TV. Definitely in that moment I could not say anything. I was like, 'Thanks, thanks, thanks.'”

Another young migrant, Amadou Darboe, also left home to seek a better future. During the special encounter, he got to present an extraordinary gift to Pope Francis. 

“Pope Francis, thanks so much. This is a statue that he made. It's a woman and her child, yes please be careful.”

“Thank you.”

Pope Francis also took time to kiss the young refugees and children in his presence, as well as many of the workers from Caritas. 

The pope took selfies with the overjoyed visitors and even showed his diversity as he spoke sign language to a couple women in the crowd, telling them he loved them by drawing a heart in the air with his hands. 

These encounters were the beginning of Caritas' “Share the Journey” campaign, which encourages people and communities to “encounter” a migrant and listen to his personal story, thus putting a name with the face.