The initiative came within the context of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence and was sponsored by Council D, Zone 9 of Milan and the Municipality of Bresso. On October 16th, 2009, Pat Patfoort took part, together with Sofia Donato, Piero Giorgi and Federico Fioretto, in the conference, “Building Nonviolence: training for peace and the nonviolent resolution of conflicts,” in the auditorium in Viale Cà Granda a Niguarda.
The Belgian anthropologists explained that violence, at all levels, manifests itself when one point of view prevails over another, in the system she defines as major-minor. “It is a habitual condition and most of our responses are drawn almost unconsciously from this mechanism.” Piero Giorgi, a graduate in biology and co-founder of a degree course in peace at the University of Queensland, in Australia, added: “It is no exaggeration to say that every violent action, even at the individual level, helps create that “broth” that feeds wars and planetary conflicts.” Federico Fioretto, the other speaker at the conference, presented the teachings of Vinoba Bhave and the political propositions of Gandhi: achieving true democracy through a network of fully responsible citizens. “Training in Nonviolence requires the adoption of a complex and coherent lifestyle.” Together with Giorgi, he is supporting the Neotopia project (neotopia.it) for the construction of a society free from violence. Sofia Donato, a representative of “The Community for Human Development,” told of her experience as a teacher of courses in nonviolence in primary schools. The first step is rehearsing with the children the golden rule: “Treat others as you wish to be treated,” the principle at the basis of all religions and the coherent ideal of the Argentine humanist philosopher, Silo.
On October 17th and 18th, the seminar “Defending oneself without attacking” was held at Bresso. The training course was taken by 25 people from various cities. In addition to volunteers from the Humanist Movement and the Paciamoci and Marse associations, parents, psychologists and teachers took part. Pat Patfoort guided participants with words, exchanges and exercises in trying out the equivalence model, a nonviolent stance that postulates listening to and understanding the other person, and trying to find an alternative solution to: “I’m right, you’re wrong.” In many ways, this is a revolutionary approach because it is directed towards the consideration of the profound (fundamental) motivations of all parties on the same level, whether dealing with a separated wife, a head of state or an assassin. Pat Patfoort has worked in many situations of deep-rooted conflict, like the Balkans, Chechnya and Rwanda, but also in family mediation and with prisoners. Everywhere, she has applied her method of finding a constructive solution which goes beyond superficial reasons, revenge and vendetta. The seminar was a valuable opportunity for meetings and swapping experiences, and the participants returned to their everyday lives aware that the nonviolent stance does not mean being passive, but instead reaching out to the other person, in the search for deep understanding and true reconciliation.