Saturday, December 22, 2007

BILL in ITALY with The Community of Sant Egidio

BILL in ITALY with The Community of Sant Egidio
Posted December 2007

The Community of Sant Egidio, headquartered in Rome, is a "Church public lay association". The different communities, spread throughout the world, share the same spirituality and principles which characterize the way of Sant’ Egidio.

The Community of Sant Egidio is a leader in the worldwide abolition movement. Each year they conduct an important event on November 30 called Cities for Life

This year over 700 cities about the world lit up various city symbols calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Pictured above is the Coliseum in Rome in lights for November 30.

Carlo Santoro, one of Sant Egidio’s long time volunteers, once again asked me to come to Italy for this special occasion. This time Carlo asked me to help with the coordination of other Journey of Hope speakers to come to Europe. Journey cofounders Marietta Jaeger Lane and SueZann Bosler joined with Shujaa Graham, current Journey board member. Journey speakers Art Laffin, Bud Welch, Edward Mpagi also joined with us.

It was a great honor and witness to the powerful testimonies of journey speakers.

Marietta was in the northern region covering Venice, Padova and other cities in the region with her husband Bob. SueZann spoke in Bari and in Rome. Art spoke in the area of Rome, his first time to Italy in 30 years. Bud Welch has traveled to Europe several times for the Cities for Life and this time spoke in Spain.

Marietta, SueZann, Art, Bud and myself are murder victim family members who do not want the death penalty under any circumstance.

Shujaa Graham spoke in Cyprus and Rome, Edward spoke in Rome and northern Italy and were joined in Rome by Kerry Max Cook and his son KJ. All three are death row exonerees. All Journey speakers spoke about forgiveness. Rick Halperin, Journey board member was also in Reggio Emilia in earlier in November.

I started off my Journey flying in to Bologna. I was met by Sant Egidio volunteers Natalie and Paulo and driven to Rimini, a beautiful city by the Adriatic sea.

Speaking usually 3 times a day, including high schools with audiences of 300 and 400 students, colleges, public and media events.

I met with the mayor of Ravenna and presented him a copy of my book, “Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing and he gave me several gifts from the city. There was a picture in the paper the next day and with an article about Cities for Life. I also had lunch with the vice-major of Reggio Emilia.

I was the guest of Arianna Ballotta, Founder of the Italian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and she took me to several wonderful restaurants that featured the best pasta I have every eaten in all of the trips I have been to in Italy.

I also traveled to Parma and Rome.

It was a wonderful experience for me to speak to the high school students and tell them how over 2,000,000 million Italians, mostly high school students, had signed petitions to spare Paula Cooper’s life. Paula was the girl who was sentenced to die for the death of my grandmother. I was able to thank them and to let them know that they can make a difference. I told them I knew they could make a difference because it was students like them that saved Paula’s life. I also told them how Italy had taken the lead in presenting the United Nations over 5,000,000 signatures called for a moratorium and that the UN had voted in November to call for its members to declare a moratorium on the DP. It was only natural to challenge them to stand up whenever they say an injustice and make a difference.

It was a great experience for us all, and I am so grateful for the Sant Egidio Community for their great work against the death penalty. They don’t have the Death Penalty in all of Europe, yet Italy and the Sant Egidio Community in particular work so hard for worldwide abolition amazes me. They also do many other great things like the efforts with the elderly, homeless, tutoring children and in Africa with the HIV Dream Program.

Sant Egidio should win the Nobel Peace Price in my opinion.

Bill Pelke

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