A moving snapshot of the current situation
In the Encyclical Letter ‘Fratelli Tutti’, Pope Francis says,
“…the processes of change that lead to lasting peace are crafted above all by peoples; each individual can act as an effective leaven by the way he or she lives each day. Great changes are not produced behind desks or in offices. This means that “everyone has a fundamental role to play in a single great creative project: to write a new page of history, a page full of hope, peace and reconciliation”. There is an “architecture” of peace, to which different institutions of society contribute, each according to its own area of expertise, but there is also an “art” of peace that involves us all. From the various peace processes that have taken place in different parts of the world, “we have learned that these ways of making peace, of placing reason above revenge, of the delicate harmony between politics and law, cannot ignore the involvement of ordinary people. Peace is not achieved by normative frameworks and institutional arrangements between well-meaning political or economic groups... It is always helpful to incorporate into our peace processes the experience of those sectors that have often been overlooked, so that communities themselves can influence the development of a collective memory” (231).
If it’s true, once again quoting Pope Francis, that, “We’re living the third world war in pieces,” (video message in Spanish sent to the participants of the 23rd Social Pastoral Day), it’s no less true that, around the world, and with much less clamour, especially in local communities and among the most ordinary people, there is attention and welcome to others that win over indifference and throw a glimmer of light in relationships.
These insights weave new humanity into society, and emblematic projects for exchanges and peace until they become shared habits.
And all this often happens a long way from the economic, political and cultural centres, especially when these become self-referential. The suburbs are the paradoxical observatory of this agitation for peace.
They are both the frontier that the opportunities, particularly economic ones, given by the centres have to deal with but also the threshold for trying out new possibilities, loosened from formal constraints, workshops where a promising future process is shaped.
Today, the suburbs of the large European cities are a jumble of cultures and religions, the result of stratification from the migrations. And while it’s true that co-habitation isn’t peaceful and a story made up of prejudice risks taking root in the heart of the most unsophisticated people generating fear and hate, it’s also true that it’s in the suburbs that there is mixing where differences are not fused together but, by talking, a mutual value is given and the path to a new anthropological and citizenship model is opened.
Rather than an individual action,
a Peaceful Act is a process which has favoured, triggered and created small or large peace actions, meaning the ability to prevent or settle situations of conflict between two or more people, two or more groups, two or more nations and two or more religions in any part of the world, in a geographical area of any size.
Photos by courtesy of Stefano Pasotti
From the Peace Campus
to the International Peaceful Act Prize
The Peace Education Campus started in summer 2016 in Gratosoglio, an area in the most southerly suburbs of Milan. Its intention from the very beginning was to be a symbolic action, the start of a process of exchange, a peace workshop, between young people and adults of different ethnic and religious backgrounds in the area after the bloody attacks in Paris in the autumn of 2015 had severely challenged the already difficult co-habitation in the area between native Italians and the new citizens, particularly Moslems.
That summer, young Christians and Moslems lived together for a week in the local parish rooms and other places in Milan where they could have all sorts of experiences together - reflection, sport, visiting exhibitions and museums and meeting credible witnesses. Some young people from Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, second generation witnesses of how prejudice and separation can lead a country over the edge, were specially invited and spent time with the young people from the area.
However, with time, while the idea became a project, we also understood the value of opening the proposal to young people from other parts of the city and different parts of Europe, particularly from the tormented Parisian banlieu of Saint-Dènis. This meeting was full of new thoughts and the transmission of experiences (in 2018, in Paris, there was a short Peace Campus) and, for a week, it allowed our area, isolated in the suburbs of a large city, to suddenly open up and become the heart of the young Europe that dreams of and puts peace into practice, and tears down the invisible, persistent walls not only between people of different cultures and religions but also those between the city centre and the suburbs.
Lastly, the Peace Campus also welcomed some personalities from the political, religious and social worlds such as Prof. Romano Prodi, Cardinal Angelo Scola or Don Luigi Ciotti, Latifa Ibn Ziaten and Sultana Razon. The Peace Campus has always been held with the patronage of the Municipality of Milan and, in 2017, that of the Fondazione Cariplo. In 2018, there was also the patronage of the Fondazione Mondo Unito at the Vatican.
We’re convinced that we offered an experience able to stimulate thought through thematic analysis of some social phenomena, geopolitical topics, historical episodes and current affairs; passion and emotion through listening to each other in focus groups, young people from different backgrounds sharing time and space and hearing about lifestyles in the testimonies or through theatrical and general workshops and, lastly, action pushing young people to take responsibility with a symbolic commitment of voluntary work to repeat in the daily life of their home town.
The serious situation triggered with the spread of Sars-Cov2, and the continuing enforced isolation, doesn’t allow us to plan a 6th edition of the Campus in person. However, the desire to involve the new generations, in particular, in the search for peace and interchange and the wish to extend the field where debates and discussions can take place and allow meeting and cultural processes to occur is still strong and has driven us not to set up webinar events difficult to take part in but create a platform. On one hand, this can collect the smallest peace gestures and projects and, on the other, make them available, broadcast them and, as much as possible, open the knowledge to a possible and potential modelling from one suburb to another.
A commission of internationally-recognised men and women will attribute a money prize to three projects.
These can be put forward by their creators or witnesses and key players.
We certainly want to have comparisons made between this award and the Nobel Peace Prize attributed annually by the Stockholm academy to leading people who have distinguished themselves in the world for great peace actions. However, we want to spotlight ordinary people, perhaps even the marginalised in the world, in any case, ordinary citizens who are and transmit the difference in daily toil.
We want to reward, to complement the work of the Nobel Peace Prize, the unknown, the humble, the dispossessed who pass us by in silence and who may not even be aware that with their virtuous behavior they are changing the world.