I am grateful to have the opportunity once again to participate in the Community of Sant’Egidio (CSE) Cities for Life Campaign to abolish the death penalty worldwide. I am writing from Novara which is in northwest Italy. Novara is the capitol city of the region of Piedmont (see more info below about this fascinating city). I’ve been graciously received by members of the (CSE) here. Upon arriving in Milan yesterday, Piero, a doctor and CSE member for 30 years, drove me to Novara where I am staying for the week. Giorgio, another long-time CSE member who has helped coordinate my trip here, has invited me stay at his flat which is adjoined to the apartment where he and his wife live. His wife’s father, who often stays in the flat, is away at the time so it’s great to have this space since I am giving several talks a day and speak at nine different schools by Sunday. It turns out that I met Giorgio when I was in Mozambique three years ago–God’s amazing grace truly at work! Giorgio, his wife and Piero are all doing incredible work with the CSE Dream program in Africa helping people with HIV-AIDS and children who are chronically malnourished. The Dream program is now in six African countries (go to www.santegidio.org for more info).
Last night I had a great home cooked meal at CSE members Mario and Christina’s house where I was joined by several other members of the community, including a Salvadoran priest. Was able to share with him some of the work we have done in the past to end US military intervention in El Salvador and assist Salvadoran families who have landed in the US because of the war in the 1980’s. I was astonished to learn that there are some 60,000 Salvadorans now living in Milan. A lot of questions were asked by other friends about the DDCW and the nonviolent resistance work I’ve been involved in. A very good entry into Italy!
This morning Giorgio, Piero and his wife, and another CSE friend left at 6:30 a.m. to drive to Turin whichhich is 100 Km south of Novara. I spoke at two different schools to about 175 high school students to share the story of my brother’s murder and to speak about Gospel nonviolence and why I oppose state sanctioned killing. I had some great interactions with students who seemed very eager to know more about faith and nonviolence and the efforts going on in the US to end violence and abolish the death penalty. During my talk, I was able to include showing a short video clip of the annual June 29-July 2 Starvin’ for Justice Fast and Vigil to end the death penalty in front of the US Supreme Court, and the Jan. 17, 2012 action where friends unfurled of a 30 foot long banner on the steps of the US Supreme Court that said “Stop Executions.” This action resulted in 13 of our friends being arrested, and some later jailed. Following the talk I was informed by one of the students that there had just been a murder in Turin three days ago. A larger group of students then gathered round and we spent some good time reflecting on what could be done to prevent further violence from occurring in their city. A great moment of grace|
It was pointed out to me going into and leaving Turin, that there a number of outdoor makeshift camps for “gypsies” on the outskirts of the city. We could see some of these camps, nestled behind bushes and trees from the roadside; it is estimated that there are some 2,000 Serbians and Romanians living in these camps. These “gypsies” are considered outcasts by the wider public. I was told that the local bishop has written an unprecedented letter calling on people of faith to offer support to the “gypsies.” The CSE has been able to assist the “gypsies” in different ways, including finding housing for several families.
Tonight I went to the CSE community prayer which is held in the oldest church in Novara–the church is 1,000 years old. The music during the prayer touches the soul! And the Italian food I’ve had today will sustain me for the long haul!
Tomorrow I will give three talks in Novara. Thank you for your prayers and heartfelt support.
With love and gratitude,