The passion and strength of those who dare to challenge the seemingly impossible, the sense of humour of a spiritual guide who knows how to communicate profound messages without useless and heavy solemnity and still the noticeable presence of a great fighter for nonviolence who died a year ago, dominated the first two sessions of the Summit.
Women who took the floor – the Irish Mairead Maguire, the Yemenite Tawakkol Karman, the American Jody Williams and the Liberian Leymah Gbowee – share a contagious force they know how to communicate to the public by involving them not only in the statement of ideas and proposals, but also and above all transmitting personal experience of courage, sacrifice and coherence. When they talk about the enormous suffering caused by war, as did Mairead Maguire in the opening of the Summit, in her voice vibrated all the grief, anger and hope of someone who does not resign herself to a world dominated by weapons, violence and militarism.
Love and compassion as drivers of change and rebellion against injustice, gave in their presentations multiple meanings to the word “peace”, which go far beyond the generic and good-natured banality usually present when we touch on this issue.
The cry of Tawakkol Karman stretches these meanings extending them to access to water and education, and the fight against corruption, the right to speech and assembly, up to claiming equality for all.
Jody Williams, with the soul of a farmer who disregards her own risks for an end to anti-personnel mines, spoke of her long history of activism, which began with opposition to the Vietnam War, arguing that no matter the cause or the subject of the struggle; the important thing is to translate outrage into action. A magnificent word play in English – to be so moved that you move – summarises this simple and inspiring concept.
Leymah Gbowee’s story takes us back to Liberia’s bloody years of civil war and gives us the unforgettable image of women sitting outside the door of the room where the negotiations are taking place, determined to stay until achieving a positive result. If a goal is easy, says Leymah, then it is not worth fighting for it.
The same selfless dedication to others, the same ability to overcome terrible hardships in order to seek a better future, was present in the young Eritrean Tareke Brhane, awarded the Medal for Social Activism. Tareke proposes to establish October 3rd, the anniversary of the tragedy of Lampedusa, as a Day of Remembrance in memory of the 20,000 people killed in the last twenty years in attempts to cross the Mediterranean. And with his passionate appeal – protecting people, not borders – concluded the morning session, throwing a challenge to Europe and Italy which should take it in the first place.