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In Europe: the response to "baby gangs"

In Europe, the Schools of Peace often deal with troubled young people in the slums of large cities. Inevitably, these young people are "attracted" by gangs and gang violence; often they have family problems, live in poverty and squalor, or are the children of immigrants and so have difficulty making their way in a new society.


From Rome to Antwerp, Barcelona, Paris and Würzburg, the People's Schools help these young people grow so they might finish school and become full members of society.


The Schools of Peace are an answer to the problem of young people's struggle to find their way in society, a struggle that more and more often leads to the breakdown of schools and the spread of youth gangs in highly developed, wealthy societies. Every year more and younger teenagers make headlines with acts of violence and petty crime; they lackeven the most basic values and expectations for the future, the youngest of them most of all. Children and adolescents grow up in a vacuum of meaningful possibilities - a vacuum filled by video games, television, computer programs; by consumerism and fads created by commercials.


In our view, eliminating this vacuum is one of the most important challenges we face today. Thus, the Schools of Peace of Sant'Egidio are intended to be places where children and adolescents find meaningful alternatives to the vacuum of commercial society - places where we can transmit the values young people need if they are to develop into mature people of good character. By learning to open up emotionally with adults, playing creatively with their peers, and writing letters to "pen pals" in other countries, the young people gain an interest in and a sense of human connection with others, as well as an awareness of world problems and a commitment to fairness and justice. The understanding of injustice, both near and far, is the root of a commitment to other people that we encourage young people to undertake, despite theirage. Children, especially those in their early teens, love taking responsibility and are willing to make a long term, loving commitment to loving other people who need their care and attention.


Respect for others, especially those who are most unfortunate, is another core value in the Schools of Peace. Our children learn to understand others (i.e. immigrants and homeless people) in all their diversity by knowing their life stories, understanding the challenges they face, and appreciating their distinct value in society.


As they develop these attitudes, the children outgrow the narrow-minded and often intolerant worldview of their youth.

All this takes place in the environment of the Schools of Peace. Children and adolescents feel secure in the School because they have now an emotional point of reference point, and a support network to lead and direct them on their path toward maturity in full appreciation of their human and cultural skills and so avoid being pushed to the margins of society.


Our Schools welcome children of different nationalities and ethnic groups, as well as Gypsies.

In Italy and Spain in particular, Gypsy children have found the Schools of Peace an important place of growth for Gypsy children. The Schools of Peace help them to enroll in conventional schooling; it also gives them health and nutrition education, supports their families, and aids them in filling out the forms and papers they must complete in order to gain residency papers.

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