After meeting with families of refugees at a reception centre in Italy today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the global community has to “stand with people who do not have any means” and provide basic necessities, such as education and sanitation.
“Having met all these family members – children and women – I was very much saddened but I was also very much heartened by the stories they told me,” Mr. Ban told reporters at the Centre Tenda Di Abramo in Rome.
“The stories were heart-breaking but at the same time, I really wanted to give them a sense of hope,” he added, noting that the warmth shown by the Italian people and others around the world and in Europe has been “very kind.”
Mr. Ban said he knows that European countries are facing many challenges, but insisted that this is not a “crisis of numbers.”
“If there is any crisis, this is a crisis of global solidarity,” he underlined. “If they show global solidarity, compassionate leadership, as the same human being, I think there is nothing that we cannot overcome.”
As a first measure, the UN chief said it is important to give refugees life-saving support, such as education and sanitation, which as basic necessities “that every human being needs.”
He also highlighted his gratefulness of the support given by many European leaders
and countries, and by people.
“I am standing with these refugees,” Mr. Ban declared. “I am standing with so many volunteers who have been working hard, tirelessly, day and night. I am standing with many educators, teachers, philanthropists, who have been showing great humanity. But most of all, we have to stand with those people who do not have any means.”
During his visit, the Secretary-General said he met about fifty or sixty children, and that this was the most moving to him.
“When I was six years old, I myself was one of them. It was 65 years ago. When [the] Korean War broke out, I had to flee my village to a safer place, even though it was very remote. At that time, I did not know what politics was about. I only knew that I was hungry and needed something to eat,” he explained.
He also shared that he stills vividly recollects memories of his his father and grandfather desperately looking for something to feed him and his siblings.
“At that time, the United Nations came - the blue flag of the United Nations. That was a beacon of hope. They saved us,” Mr. Ban recalled.
“I am sure that one of these refugees, one day, overcoming all of these difficulties may be Secretary-General of the United Nations in the future. They can be government and community leaders. They have great potential. The potential of refugees should be fully utilized. If they are supported, they can be honourable and very talented contributors to your societies.”
The Secretary-General also highlighted that the UN is mobilizing all necessary resources, which he said is why he convened a summit meeting on migration and refugees in September on the margins of the General Assembly.
“Many European Presidents and Prime Ministers participated and I urged them to please show compassionate leadership,” he said. “This is an era of global solidarity.”
He further recalled that when Pope Francis came to the United Nations last month, he spoke to the leaders of the world. “If I may quote him, he said: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' That was most fitting and inspiring, especially at this time.”
Concluding his remarks, Mr. Ban said he counts on the compassionate leadership of leaders around the world.