Little Elena Romeo said to everyone in a loud voice: “The new generations can and will do a lot for peace and the environment. Because we don’t like the world as it is”.

Elena, 11 years old, inaugurated the demonstration “Peace in all lands” organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, which on the morning of 1 January brought together thousands of people: youths, adults and old people, Italians and “new Italians” integrated in the country, who marched from Castel Sant’Angelo to St. Peter’s to listen to the Pope’s Angelus and to show their support for the pontiff’s message on the 53rd World Day of Peace.

The Pope sent an affectionate greeting to the participants in the march, recalling that there were demonstrations of this kind not only in Rome but in “numerous cities of the world”. Then, without reading from his prepared remarks, he added: “They also have a ‘school of peace’. Continue”, in reference to the Schools of Peace of Sant’Egidio, places where, in many cities on all continents, the Community helps children of the peripheries not only in their school learning but also to grow in nonviolence, in respect for difference and in the defence of the environment.

Before starting the march, and after listening to Elena, 28-year-old Somalian Abdul Razak spoke of his painful story. He was born when his country had been at war for two years. And that war is not over yet, as we sadly saw with the attack a few days ago in Mogadishu, which caused almost a hundred deaths.

When he was 14 years old he undertook a journey that was to be his salvation but which ended up trapping him in the hell of Libya for years between detention and torture centres at first, and in the hands of traffickers later.

Finally, in July 2017, he arrived in Italy: “Today I speak six languages ​​and have mastered many trades. Two words have accompanied me and helped me not to give up: hope and peace. What surprised me most about Italy is that you can walk around trouble-free without danger of anyone hurting you. I received the help of Sant’Egidio, but now with the Community I have begun to help others, those in need”.

At the conclusion of the march, the president of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, stressed the significance of such an important demonstration, not only for the number of people who attended, but also for the presence there of people of all generations.

“It is a people that together begins the year in the train of peace”, and that is willing to defend peace in a world full of contrasts: “We must always defend peace, because otherwise it will be trampled by the powerful. We are not destined to live in a culture of confrontation. Peace is the future. We are here also in the name of those who suffer in the wars of this world: we have to listen to their thirst for peace. Each of us can do a lot. Let the decade that begins be a decade of peace”.

The names of countries at war which paraded to St. Peter’s Square, such as Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, recall the work – much – that remains to be done. But a large banner, clearly visible under the Pope’s window, said: “Everything can change”.

(Source: Sant’Egidio; Novena translation)

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