LONDON: Pope Francis has blessed a violin made by inmates of a Milan prison out of wood from a migrant boat.
It is hoped the instrument will build awareness of the plight of refugees across the Mediterranean.
The Italian government and Pope Francis both back the scheme, which has seen 10 boats used by migrants to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa sent to the inmates of Opera prison, Milan.
There, four prisoners used the facility’s carpentry workshop for two and a half months turning the wood into a violin.
The instrument, which still bears the boat’s paintwork, was blessed this month at the Vatican by the Pope, who has sought to draw attention to the 23,000 migrants and refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014.
The project is also backed by the Italy-based Benedetta D’Intino Foundation. Its head, Arnoldo Mosca Mondadori, said plans were now underway to make another violin, as well as a cello and viola, while next year the inmates would make enough instruments to supply an entire orchestra.
“These instruments will be lent to orchestras who want them, to help communicate this drama and make people think,” he said.
Nicolae, one of the prisoners working on the instruments, said: “You can imagine how much suffering is linked to that boat, this piece of wood. We want to make people reflect on this suffering.”
Another inmate, Andrea, said: “We want to give a voice to those who no longer have one.”
The plan also aimed to help train up inmates for life outside jail, said the prison’s director, Silvio Di Gregorio.
“Our guests, who have committed crimes, must rebuild their future, just as this wood, which has witnessed suffering, will become musical instruments,” he said.
The first violin made was tested by professional musician Carlo Lazzaroni, who said its sound compared favorably with top-grade instruments.
“The idea that this wood could become an instrument with such a sound is miraculous,” he said, adding: “When I close my eyes, you can hardly hear the difference.”