Magazine article The Christian Century

Mussie Zerai

Magazine article The Christian Century

Mussie Zerai

Article excerpt

Mussie Zerai was once a refugee. Now the 40-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Eritrea runs a center that receives calls from distressed migrants who have fled their countries in hopes of a better life in Europe. Through Agenzia Habeshia, the charitable trust he set up in 2006 to campaign for refugee rights in North Africa and to help others in Italy get asylum, Zerai has saved thousands of lives.

The little-known priest, now based in Rome and Switzerland, was among the nominees for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. (It was awarded in October to the National Dialogue Quartet, which helped build a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia.)

Zerai said in a telephone interview that being nominated was a reward.

"Above all, it is a recognition of the seriousness of the situation of the refugees coming from sub-Saharan Africa," he said.

Zerai, who was born in Asmara, Eritrea's capital, became a refugee at age 17 and migrated to Italy. There he became involved in human rights campaigns while studying theology and social morality.

In 2003, he gave his phone number to migrants after helping an Italian journalist interview refugees in prison in Libya. From then on, migrants have spread the word to call Zerai's number for help. …

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