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March 1 2012

The Arab Spring: words, images, press release

The contributions given on 29th February broaden the perspective and invite us not to be only “sceptic spectators, but passionate companions”, as Marco Impagliazzo, President of Sant’Egidio, declared

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The conference “Arab Spring, for a new National Pact”, took place on 29th February in the headquarters of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome. It offered the opportunity to deepen the understanding of what is happening on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, thanks to the attendance of eminent personalities of the Arabic world who are leading actors of this historic time. 

Primavera Araba, il programma


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 ............................. NEWS FROM THE CONFERENCE ..............................


This evening Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, closed the dense and rich conference on the Arab Spring, where some twenty-six speakers contributed in five sessions of study and analysis. “The atmosphere today – Impagliazzo said – does not allow us to be sceptical spectators of the relevant events of the Arab Spring, rather, it makes us respectful and passionate companions. How? Three words are crucial: encounter, listening, friendship. The realism of friendship overcomes the dichotomy optimism-pessimism and gives more depth and passion to the understanding of these events. We Europeans should feel more involved. We should have the same critical enthusiasm we felt during the great events of 1989. Islam is changing, it is a momentous fact eliciting support and friendliness”.
The President of Sant’Egidio underlined two points of radical novelty arising from the debate: the participation in the process of change stems from being citizens of the country, not followers of a religion or part of an ethnic group. Also, the new political balance that is being shaped shows an inedited route for reconciliation between faith and secularism. This can be a way to widen the sense of passion and friendliness towards a movement that is building up the history of our time.


The wind of history is passing through the Arabic world. The conference organised by Sant’Egidio, hosting twenty-seven speakers, was meant to interpret the events and deepen the understanding of their complexity. The aim was also “to define a European and Italian viewpoint”, as Massimo D’Alema underlined. The ex Prime Minister, now President of the Commission for Security in the Italian Parliament, spoke in the last part of the conference dedicated to the role of Europe with Franco Frattini, former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“The phase of Islamophobia is now closed – D’Alema commented – we have to account for the strength of the people’s drive over political Islam. We have to overcome demonising visions and establish a dialogue with the new forces, taking into account that democracy does not only mean voting, rather to develop the right of minorities. However the new movements are not against the West; rather, they were born and took strength through values and well spread communication tools. Europe cannot respond by being suspicious, nor just a waiting spectator, even less feeling nostalgia for the past. The ongoing change gives Europe a higher warranty for its security. Europe must open a new phase in its political stance towards the Mediterranean Area, finally building a peer-to-peer partnership, a partnership of civilizations, beyond mere commercial relations. Europe must develop a common policy on immigration and towards Africa, taking into account that the Southern shore is experiencing more people moving in than out of the continent. Europe has to rethink the policy for peace and security, working together with the Arabic countries on the agenda of the ongoing conflicts, first the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The ’89 was our spring – said D’Alema – when Europe promoted the dream of the European enlargement. Today we have to do something similar with our neighbours in the Mediterranean area”.
Frattini built on the idea proposing a “new CSCE”. As the Conference of Helisinki was the leverage to unlock the Iron Curtain, a common body has to be invented to give support to the new Mediterranean perspective. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs described the democratic process as irreversible and invited Europe to self-criticism: “A partnership based on convenience could not last long.” The programme today is: “Money, mobility, markets. Money: sustainable development among peers, meaning investments and not donations. Mobility: re-thinking Erasmus in a Euro-Mediterranean key, because youth are a great investment for the future. Markets: stop to protectionism. It is in Europe’s interest and safety to open the markets and favour a strong economic growth in the Mediterranean area”. Among the two Italian political leaders, there was more tuning than disagreement.


Sunni Muslim, member of the National Committee for dialogue between Islam and Christianity in Lebanon, Sammak was invited to the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of the Bishops in 2010. He was also among the promoters of a fatwa of condemnation against attacks to places of worship, being them Christian, Muslim, or any other confession and religious faith.

In his contribution to the Conference organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio on the “Arab Spring” he clarified one of the most diffuse misunderstandings: the relationship between Islam and religion must be revisited. At the very top of Islam stands justice, not religion. Sammak explained it saying that God will turn into a winner the State that is “just”, even if non-Muslim, and this perspective should stay as a foundation for the living together of Islam and Christianity. The same approach is taken for the Holy Scriptures: human beings make its interpretation and everything that is made by humans is open, can be affected by mistakes, has nothing holy.

Sammak also noticed that one of the consequences of the Arab Spring is living together as the rule of law, where all citizens are the same in front of the law through a national dialogue, where “the art of seeking for truth is in the vision, in the point of view of the other”. Sammak claimed the positive value of the existence of “the other” because it expresses dissimilarity.


Andrea Riccardi, Rashid Ghannushi: parts of the first contribution of the conference “The Arab Spring” in Rome. Go to the page

Debate on the challenges and perspectives of the Arab Spring. Egyptian voices at the conference. Go to the page   

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