“We asked the mayor of Savignano sul Rubicone to send a message of fraternity by adding some color to a public space,” say Matteo and Giosuè, Italian members of Youth for a United World. “They gave us an underpass connecting the main road to the train station. We created a mural where we wrote, next to the bridge that symbolizes the city, ‘Let’s bridge’ and “Global citizens” in a number of languages, with the help of a number of migrant kids who came through.”
The result was a collective work, a visible sign of peace. The mural project was also an opportunity to make contact with the head of the Ravenna mosque, Imam Mustapha Soufi (president of the European Islamic Conference of Imams). After three months of work the underpass was inaugurated with two mayors and a member of European Parliament who, just three days after the terrible events in Brussels (this was March 2016), had asked to participate in this type of project, one promoted by kids that instils hope in a peaceful future. The underpass became a symbolic place.
Matteo and Giosuè are both “ambassadors of peace,” an honorary title bestowed on them by Universal Circle of Ambassadors of Peace, headquartered in Geneva, which has the goal of spotlighting all those who work for peace, especially young people and children ages 6 to 18. For a number of years, they have organized a spring fair in their region, together with other young people. This is a Young for Unity project that, in collaboration with schools, associations and local governments, hopes to create activities promoting peace and fraternity.
“Last July,” continues Matteo, “together with 50 members of Young for Unity, we went to World Youth Day. Pope Francis concluded his words with ‘May God bless your dreams.’ There are so many dreams that we want to achieve, especially to be builders of a world of peace and fraternity.”
After an earthquake struck central Italy, they felt called once again. Among the many ideas was one to put on two dinners in Modena and Cesena to raise funds. “We got close to 100 kids involved and served 350 people at table, raising more than 4,000 Euros.” The dinner at Cesena included Imam Mustapha, who asked them to come and meet young Muslims to start on a path for peace at the Ravenna mosque, one of the four official mosques in Italy. They were warmly welcomed on January 22. They took off their shoes as they entered, and the girls covered their heads. They sat in a circle, girls to one side, boys to the other. “We started playing a quiz game on the Bible and Quran – there are so many things in common. We are not so different, and all of us wanted to build a more united world. At noon we stood up and, holding hands, we had a minute of silence to ask God for the gift of peace.” After a meal of cous cous prepared by the Muslim mothers, the group had a guided tour of the mosque and a moment of dialogue. “Peace is made by the young,” says the imam, “we must unite and change our way of thinking in order to bring down the walls of prejudice.” Their Muslim friends asked to be able to visit a Catholic church next.
“It feels fantastic,” concludes Giosuè. “To build peace we need to respect each other and not be afraid of differences. How can we not think of those Muslim kids that we meet at school or perhaps come across on the street? They too are our brothers, builders of peace together with us, and not terrorists like the media wants us to believe.”