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The bold strokes of Fasasi Abeedeen’s pencil record the story of his tenuous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.

A screaming child is passed between adults to safety. A boy, struggling in a consuming sea, is gasping for air. A woman’s lifeless body is lifted from the water.

Wearing blue jeans and a green T-shirt emblazoned with the title that reflects this place—the Casa Scalabrini—Abeedeen shows his sketches to Tom and Anita Herway, missionaries for LDS Charities, who have been in Rome helping refugees for a year. Abeedeen knows he is lucky to be here, creating art in the shade of an outdoor patio.

In 2015, Abeedeen fled Nigeria, where he had just completed training as a sculptor. A political election scandal drove him from his homeland.


“I was forced to leave for my own life,” he said. “I didn’t even know where I was going.”

Traveling through Libya, he gained passage on one of two boats that were to carry passengers across the Mediterranean Sea. But one boat overturned, leaving the journey not only etched in his sketchbook, but also in his mind.

Clean cut and clean shaven, Abeedeen looks nothing like the people in his sketches. He is now numbered among a lucky few who have found refuge and inclusion at the Casa Scalabrini Order of the Catholic Church In Rome, Italy. The program and home support 30 refugees—some Christian, some Muslim—each year on their journey to self-reliance. With one-on-one mentoring, the residents find jobs, friends, and community.

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