“... I think I understood the meaning of that single monosyllable written on the frontispiece of your Rule: YES. You want to say yes to life and no to death. Yes to brotherhood and no to racism. Yes to peace and no to war. Yes to justice and no to inequity. During your travels around the world, you witnessed death, racism, war and inequity a thousand times. They are everywhere: in Sarajevo like in Chechnya, in Somalia like in Zaire. We can keep asking ‘why?’ for forever. But maybe the only possible answer is the one you chose to give, dedicating your life to alleviate sufferings and raise hope, even if you know well that the contribution you can make is just as small as a grain of sand.” (Norberto Bobbio)
The Arsenals of Peace all around the world are doors widely open on suffering, misery, hunger, desperation and injustice, twenty-four hours a day. They house a family who welcomes everyone, with the intention of helping whoever sincerely wants to come out of a situation of degradation or whoever left their country because of political, religious or conscience reasons.
The people living within the Arsenals come from prison or the streets, they are both grown-up and children, victims of violence and war without any rights or certainties, or immigrants searching for a new life. They join a family in which we try to overcome the distance between those who welcome and those who are welcomed.
A story of hospitality
In winter 1987, during an evening of prayer within the Week of Fasts, organised together with the Holy Father John Paul II, a man with a foreign accent stood up and asked me: “You, where will you sleep tonight? Many fellows countrymen of mine and I will sleep in the cold, under a bridge or in our cars”. You, Olivero, where are you sleeping tonight? I might have answered that I was already working for the poor far away and that I could not undertake any other task. But love, if it is true, cannot hide itself behind any excuse. So I called my wife: “Maria, I won’t come back home tonight”. That was how I discovered hell in my own city.
I used to be a bank manager, earning a huge steady pay cheque, and I could have lived caring of nothing else. But that night, I was deeply shaken. I asked myself “who should take care of the poor? Does it have to be always someone else, or maybe it could be me?” My life changed that night. After a short while, we decided to open a night shelter at our Arsenal, and the poor of our city joined us within it. It was not in our plans and we thought it was none of our concern, but every time we welcomed someone who had been knocking at our door, we felt as we were meeting God. That night, a story of love began, which gives shelter to thousands of people not only in Turin, but also in São Paulo of Brazil and Madaba in Jordan. (Ernesto Olivero)