Speech by Marco Impagliazzo at the presentation of the book
TO MAKE PEACE. The Community of Sant'Egidio in International Scenarios
ed. Leonardo International
Rome Camera dei Deputati (Parliament), May 12, 2010
The beautiful expression of that artist of journalism who was Igor Man: “The UN of Trastevere”, is an attempt to define Sant'Egidio's commitment for peace. This expression indicates a mixture of diplomacy and Roman homemade good sense. We immediately liked it and that's why we wanted it on the back cover of this book, To Make Peace. As Igor Man, many have wondered how to define Sant'Egidio.
Andrea Riccardi does it in the introduction of the book:
"Sant'Egidio is a"very special international player ". It is not an international organization, not an NGO specialized in mediation, not non-governmental agency, not the enactment of a government ... It 'a Christian community, born in Rome in 1968, known for his work with the poorest and in cases of extreme poverty. Over the years it became a fraternity (or, if you will, an International) of communities rooted in various countries, primarily in Europe, the Americas, in Asia, but particularly in Africa.
The question is how a Christian community was able to run actions for peace on the scenarios of the world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. You should not think that the Community is an heavy organization, rich in economic resources or employees.
There is however a great resource: the interest in the horizon of the world, often forgotten countries, lived faithfully and in a variety of contacts. "
It 'a useful definition for those who want to understand the particularity of Sant'Egidio, especially in its passion for the great world. It 's a passion that feeds an evangelical spirituality that sees war as an evil. In Sant'Egidio we say that war is the mother of all poverty.
The teaching of the popes since the beginning of the twentieth century is marked by a demand for peace, Benedict XV during World War I, spoke of "useless massacre" and John Paul II, his distant successor, described war as " an adventure without return. " It 's a lesson that has guided us over the years. The conviction that war is an adventure without return was developed by experiencing the sorrow of many who live war.
We have seen up close the reality of war and conflict, with all their tragedy, a tragedy that my generation has never seen and did not know.
In recent years we cultivated the hope, both realistic and tenacious that peace is possible. We must find ways to achieve it, patiently rebuilding the fractures, creating a framework of guarantees for the future, showing that there is nothing worse than war, giving vent to peoples desire for peace, peoples that are "hostages" of war, of a culture or a propaganda of war, as in the case of Côte d'Ivoire or other.
The Community of Sant'Egidio was also at the heart of various initiatives for dialogue among religions and between believers and the secular world. In particular, after the great prayer for peace in Assisi in 1986, convened by John Paul II, the Community held in various countries around the world each year, meetings between leaders of various religions, recognizing that religions can be decisive support for peace, but also elements of sacralization of war.
Dialogue is therefore in the chromosomes of the Community. But, in the nineties, and especially after September 11, 2001, this quest for dialogue appeared naive in a world that seemed destined to clash of civilizations and religions. War, the cultural one but also the one that is fought, was regarded as a painful necessity. We did not believe in this axiom, presented as a necessity. It is not pacifism of principle but realism developed through the experience of peacemaking in the different conflicts described in this book.
Indeed, the Community does not only "witness" the value of peace, let us say, in moral or religious way, but it acts and intervenes in a practical way to seek peace in conflict situations. Rather than pacifists, we should speak of peacemakers.
What worries us is that conflict - even within societies, not just between different countries, came to be "popular" among people. Some states attempted to convince that there are turns and moments of history when war can not be avoided. This attempt always needs lies and falsifications in order to suceed.
In some cases we also found a common enemy, as in the case of Islam versus the West. When we look at the European societies, it appears as if the lesson of the tragedies of the twentieth century were not enough: they are still looking for enemies and scapegoats: immigrants, Gypsies, Jews or other minorities.
The contempt for the other, for those who are different appears to be the cipher, the symbol of our time.
Many of these war years were explained as inevitable products of objective facts, independent of the will of the people. Hypocritically no leader would ever admit that they have chosen for war. They would instead argue that it is war that "chose" them and that he was forced to respond to the “call of history”. This doctrine has become contagious. It is the war of identity, ethnicity, the war for cocoa, for oil, for diamonds, for coltan, etc..
Is there anything more real and more "incontournable" than these realities that man does not control? In other words, if certain conditions occur, certainly there will be a war. This is how the culture of opposition is spread, "sweetened" by the feelings of being a victim that is the true mark of the common global culture. Contempt begins to justify violence and eventually it justifies war.
War and contempt become a culture and eventually deform the soul of entire peoples. Andrea Riccardi often said that there is spiritual architecture of a people that can become ill.
Sant'Egidio on peace has been firm during these years it did not succumb to hysterical reasoning but it has made it a "vocation" on a global level and on the level of society. Friendship with the poor, the reconstruction of the torn fabric of many neighbourhoods of large cities in Europe, the encounter between different generations, the meeting with the elders who are refused by all, dialogue between religions and cultures, peacekeeping operations: Sant 'Egidio has continued to insist on dialogue, on the need there is for "living together". It insisted in searching the thin wires of dialogue that need to be joined together so that enemies and strangers may start looking at one another and eventually rediscover that they are brothers.
With a joke I would say we went searching for peace in the full and global sense, from the streets to parliaments. This is why I thank President Fini for having invited us in this high place of democracy to speak of peace.
If there is a method - but it is not only one because situations are different - is that of a diplomat of the old church, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who became pope under the name of John XXIII, who said, "we must try to find what unites and put aside what divides. " What unites all is the being members of a national family, but often there are also minor aspects of the biography of men who fight. What unites becomes the belief that there is no future with the elimination of the other. We must, in short, recognize that all parts have a place in the future of their country.
Peace is not one, not only talks but also coexistence (preventive peace), building a compassionate society, working for human rights (death penalty and prisons) and so on. It is therefore important to connect communities working in many fields: the DREAM program for AIDS now reaches 90,000 people in Africa and the fight against the death penalty: two of the essays in this volume are on these issues.
Then there's the issue of widespread violence, which is becoming a new civil war. Working against the maras is also working for peace. Especially for children: how important are the schools of peace, places of peace and culture organized by our communities in the world, and not the school violence of the street. The dominant culture does not like the work for peace and sees it as a "waiver" to its power, identity or reasons. Too often we hear that dialogue is a sign of "self-hatred." Many are those who consider the work for peace naive.
In recent years, the work to mediate between warring parties has been difficult. The story of peace in Mozambique has shown that there is a revelation of the peacekeeping force of Christians who turns in a vision, it is always possible to make peace, to find a road that passes through the people - even the most hardened - and try to heal with patience the pathology of memory, resentments, ideologies, contempt. This is the weak force. From it comes the "politics of compassion" that look for concrete ways to achieve peace, where it is threatened or were it does not exist.
In this great work for peace I would mention the names of two of our friends, one African, the other of Central America who have lost their lives in the name of peace: Floribert, a young Congolese customs officer who has not succumbed to blackmail and was killed because he did not allow into the country spoiled flour and sugar. He believed in the value of honesty in a context of corruption. William, a young Salvadorian, a friend of poor children in a suburb of the capital, where he was responsible for a school of peace. He was killed by the maras because his life was concrete proof of an alternative to juvenile violence.
Even this, my friends, is Sant'Egidio. Yes, everyone can work for peace, coexistence, this is our deepest conviction. In this high place of Italian democracy I would like to say that the name of Italy is loved and respected also thanks to this humble and tenacious work.