Breathe

Anti-rasism demo Milan

The health emergency has confronted us with our breathing. Normally breathing seems to be completely spontaneous – and when all goes well, it really happens automatically.

What we have experienced in the last few months with COVID-19 has confronted us with the difficulties of breathing.

Our multicultural congregation in Milan has some members who have seen, as doctors, volunteers or nurses, many panting people looking for a bit of air. And we have a Filipino sister and an Italian brother who had to spend several weeks with their head locked inside a helmet not to suffocate.

I CAN’T  BREATHE – how many times have these three words been spoken or thought in the COVID-wards of our hospitals, in the homes for old people and in the apartments of the sick?

I CAN’T BREATHE, who would have thought that these three words were not pronounced only by the sick all over the world, but also by a person without health problems?

I can’t breathe – these last words of George Floyd do not go out of my head.

These three words have now been repeated by so many people in the United States and also here in Italy to say: What happened to George Floyd, must never happen to anyone again!

Not being able to breathe, because a virus has ferociously attacked your lungs, must be absolutely terrible.

What happened to George Floyd, however, is still more serious, using a theological term, it is SIN! Because it is the opposite of what God wants for us!

When George Floyd could no longer breathe, his murderer took away from him the gift that he, like all human beings, had received from God: vital breath (Genesis 2, 7)!

When George Floyd could no longer breathe, his murderer had decided that he should no longer breathe.

We know: this is not a single case, but a structural problem, not only in the United States, even here in Europe, in Italy. In a thousand  different ways.

This is the reason why it is extremely important to continue our multi- and intercultural congregation-experience here in Milan, because it shows that people from different countries and continents, people of different colors and with different ways to live their life, people of different social and cultural levels can come together and share their congregation life in peace.

During the lockdown we organized bilingual worship services on zoom just to come together, to see each other and to pray together.  We tried to sustain each other spiritually and materially.  We created even some funds for those who couldn’t continue to work and who became still more vulnerable like the undocumented.

As a multicultural church we want to bear witness of this:

God has breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of every human being. None of us has more rights to breathe freely, none of us has less rights to live. 

In God’s world words like: We first … and then, if ever, the others, don’t exit.

In God’s world, Christians believe, that Jesus came to remind us: the last ones first. And where this really happens, the world can become truly human.

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Dorothee Mack is pastor of the Waldensian Church of Milan.