Will we be better?

Publish date 20-06-2020

by Guido Morganti

The Covid emergency can be a teaching, like all difficult times. For Sermig it was like that even in the 70s ...


We are in the early 70s. A lady highlights a feature of the Sermig. Ernesto Olivero points out to John Paul II: "For some years now Italy has been shaken by youth protests and terrorism: everywhere there was tension, fear, uncertainty about the future; the squares were filled with people; youth protests often escalated into aggression; the extremisms were marked.

We, who until then had worked for the distant, felt for the first time to be a firm presence against violence, but serene towards the people and to be so not in the enclosed spaces of our churches, but in the squares, in the places of meeting, protest and claim.


We had chosen silence. The mere meeting in the square transformed it into an open-air church and thus brought prayer among the people. It had been a signal that many people had received. After one of these great vigils in the largest square in Turin, a woman had come looking for me and had thanked us: "Thank you because you give us hope" "(Carolpapa page 45). The confirmation of this "charisma" came precisely from the Pope in a meeting on January 24, 1979: he had given us the mandate to bring out the dormant hope in the heart of man.

Hope to face desperation, anguish, fear that unfailingly characterize times of crisis, such as what we are experiencing here today. They are feelings that in other parts of the world they know well. Let's also think about what a mother who does not have to eat for herself and her children can live. Eliminating world hunger was the first dream of Sermig, which did not remain in the clouds, but immediately found concreteness in aid, in projects, in creating a mentality capable of looking out of its sphere.


The approach to globalization has made it possible to come into contact with injustices, waste of resources, exploitation of the environment, the scandal of wars. Hence the commitment, for example the theme of peace in the heart of the Cold War, a historical period that for decades has been marked by a pandemic of a virus of fear, of instability.

Weapons were, as they are today, the magnet to make money, to give a sense of security, to maintain strategic balances. Ernesto Olivero recalls: «During the Kippur war between Arabs and Israelis […] catastrophic articles on the fate of humanity appeared in all Italian newspapers. The only voice of hope was that of a certain Giorgio La Pira, whom I did not know. He spoke of a new hope, he referred to the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied a time when weapons would be transformed into working tools and man would no longer learn the trade of war ». Is 2,4 becomes the guideline.


In the exhibition "We denounce violence because we want peace" in 1975 a poster showed that weapons kill and leave furrows of discord and suspicion among men, stealing thousands of billions that would resolve economic disparities. The current slogan "weapons kill five times" followed on this line (see NP2019 / 5 p. 21). The exhibition "War depends on us" ended the year before and ended with this sentence: "In any tension for good, there must be those who start first. Why not start with us? ", To consolidate the idea that protest is not enough, you have to take responsibility, take a lifestyle that is consistent with the ideas you intend to convey. Sermig had chosen not to denounce social and world injustices by involving people with loud and violent demonstrations, but to meet people calmly, with dialogue, with the concreteness of proposals to meet those who live in poverty, with testimony of a life that has placed God and the poor at the basis of their choices. Squares, theaters, palaces are used to meet people with exhibitions, with the participation of "masters", with symbols such as the "tent of peace". A meeting at the Turin sports hall on 13 May 1973 was significant: "Afternoon of hope, prayer, listening". As a historical note it was the first time that Ernesto Olivero spoke in public starting his intervention as follows: «An undeniable reality is that contemporary society is experiencing a crisis of values. Well-being, for many, the maximum goal to be reached by passing over everything and everyone. The individual places himself at the center of all interests. Powerful minorities impose themselves on the multitude of men. In this context the message of Christ is grafted, which is the message of liberation, because it is the message of Love. Love is the fundamental law of life. Love knows no fear, no compromises, no prejudices, no barriers. The risen Christ marks the definitive victory of life over death ... ». It was also the years of terrorism, black and red. Without forgetting the serious oil crisis. Another fear virus pandemic. How Sermig went through this period with the desire to convert, to condemn the actions but to help those who accomplished them to understand their mistakes. Over the years this approach that excluded the closure of the mind has allowed Sermig to involve prisoners in a work cooperative.


This pandemic time will end, and the question is whether we will be better. Clearly it depends on how we lived this time. As the last two numbers of NP have recounted, the Sermig is restarted immediately from the first day using that key that opens the heart, mind, eyes and ears to the world and introduces hope. Which becomes the concreteness of choices and of life. Hope is a door that opens and never closes. The Sermig door is always open.


See the focus Reflections in Time of Covid 19

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