Did you know that there is a new trend visible when one studies the registration of baby names in Malta? There are now babies called Gift, Hope, and Faith. Why? Not because the native Maltese have embraced those names, but because Malta is embracing migrant and refugee mothers. You were a gift to your mother, but imagine the blessing a mother feels when she gives birth to a child in a new country, having fallen pregnant before she fled a war or persecution at home, or having fallen pregnant while on the journey to a safe harbour – pregnant not always of her own will. And yet, the new life in this new place, for a desperate, hopeful mother, can be a gift.
Please consider what motherhood means to you as you celebrate this Mother’s Day. Your mother has often been your greatest ally, your strongest champion, your fiercest protector. Our mothers are the source of our most primal human relationship, perhaps especially when they are absent. But we all understand instinctively their value, their potential in our lives, and what becoming and remaining a mother entails.
So many of us have been lucky enough to live in a country where our mothers are able to keep us safe in the simplest of ways. Our formative challenges are confined to other children’s meanness in the playground, navigating all the learning there is before us, or the everyday cuts and scrapes of our play.
Refugee women in Malta see all those challenges while having emerged from situations of terror. Though this is hard for us, with our great fortune, to imagine, please try to imagine it this Mother’s Day.
With the unprecedented numbers of refugees arriving in Europe in the past year or so – 644,000 in 2015 alone – come unprecedented numbers of mothers. Of that 644,000, 34% were women and children: that means, potentially, 218,960 mother-child bonds in peril.
Please think of how many cases see those bonds broken because so many refugee mothers leave home without their children: seeking to reach safety and establish some optimism in their futures, and then trying to bring their children to Malta. We all know, see, and read that the bond is broken too often because mothers arrive by boat, just barely, when their children have died at sea. What is it like to save your child from drowning? What is it like to continue living after you couldn’t save your child, no matter how tightly and for how long you held on?
“This Mother’s Day, please dedicate a moment of gratitude, a sunny lunch, flowers, to your mother. But when you see a refugee mother, with or without her own beloved children, please also be kind to her and wish her a happy Mother’s Day. We may not understand everything our own mothers have fought to have us grow strong and capable; please know that we can only imagine what a refugee mother has fought.” (Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director)