Monday, April 14, 2014

A Radical City

A few weeks back I had the amazing opportunity to go to Venice. The city is of course one of the quintessential Italian cities one must visit when they come here. The city has been romanticized in so many ways and in so many different mediums, and for good reason. It is one of the coolest places I have ever been. Venice has shown up in pop-culture so much that I almost felt like I knew the city before I went there, but it can only be experienced in person. It is a city that is just radically different from anything else, anywhere.

From Doge's Palace
It is easy to get caught up in the beauty of the city, and believe me I did. Doge's Palace, Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, The Grand Canal, and all the smaller "streets." It's beauty is unrivaled by any other city I know. But what I found most inspiring about the city is the fact that Venice was founded by refugees. That's right, refugees. Fleeing persecution from the Huns who were attacking the Italian mainland, the original Venetians sought refuge in a lagoon with tiny islands. From these rough and probably terrifying beginnings, the city grew to be one of the most powerful forces in Europe.

Piazza San Marco 

View from Ponte Rialto 

Venice started as a place of last resort. I can't even imagine what it would have been like to live in early Venice, a stinky lagoon that constantly flooded. But it was the only option available to the refugees who settled there. It is empowering to think of the transformation from this place of last resort to the beautiful and treasured city that Venice is today. I'm sure for many of the guests that come to the JNRC on a daily basis, Rome is a place of last resort. They have no family here. They have few friends. They are stuck in a vicious cycle and don't really have a way forward.

What I've taken away from my experience in Venice is that the way forward for the refugees I work with is going to have to be radical. Just as the Venetians built a radically different city, so too will the refugees in Rome have to build a radically new system to free themselves from the vicious cycle where they are trapped. I think people are scared of the word 'radical.' It's taken on a bad connotation in our society, but the word itself is more encouraging than it seems. Stemming from the latin term Radix, meaning roots, being radical is simply asking us to return to our fundamentals, to our roots, and reexamine our lives from a different context.

In this most holy of weeks dedicated to remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus, I urge you to be radical in your prayer, radical in your faith, and radical in your actions.

1 comment:

  1. I just keep pinching myself-hard to believe that you and Jenny are sharing this fabulous adventure together-and spending Easter in Rome. We love you both and miss you. As my Daddy would say, store up the memories. Aunt Claire