Friday, March 07, 2008
MARIETTA IN SANT'EGIDIO'S CITIES FOR LIFE CAMPAIGN
First a message from Magdaleno "Leno" Rose-Avila
Marietta is one of the most important voices in our movement and one that enjoys a good joke and laugh... even if the joke is on her. She is a rare gem amongst the many stars in the heavens. Leno
Here's my "report" re our experience speaking against the death penalty in Italy the end of November - beginning of December 2007...
IN SANT'EGIDIO'S CITIES FOR LIFE CAMPAIGN
At the end of last November, I was honored to be one of the participants in the CITIES FOR LIFE CAMPAIGN sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, whose base is in Rome, Italy. The purpose of this campaign was to garner support from Italy and some other European countries for the United Nations’ resolution calling for a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty. Other Journeyers also invited were Bill Pelke, Art Laffin, Bud Welch, SueZann Bosler, Shujja Graham and Eduard (Edward) from Uganda. If I’ve left anyone out, please forgive me – I just didn’t know you were there. As Eduard says in his piece, we were scattered all over Italy and I think Bud was in Spain.
Anyhow, my husband Bob and I were flown to Venice where we were picked up by members of the Community and taken to our hotel in Trieste. This very hilly, northeastern Italian city is quite interesting in that, at one point in history it belonged to Austria, another time to Slovenia and now to Italy. Consequently, the culture and architecture, etc., is not quite the same as other Italian cities. Very interesting – I’d go back in a minute!
Since we’d been in the air for twenty-four hours, we were really worn out. So the Trieste Community members fed us lavishly and then sent us to our hotel to get some sleep. I think we slept straight through for fourteen hours!
But the next day, we were up and running – a high school presentation in the morning, then a relaxed lunch followed by a university class in the afternoon, and then, usually at another town’s gathering, an evening talk – which didn’t start till 9PM!. If we started anything at 9PM over here, no one would come – they’d all be home, getting ready for bed! But the Italians take a break in the afternoon and then don’t eat till 9:30PM or so.
Most evenings after such a late presentation, dinner didn’t happen till 10:30 or so! However, then, when we finally did sit down to eat, it was always an EVENT – leisurely enjoying each and every course, lots of wine and delightful conversations with Community members and new people from each different town and city we spoke in. The Community of Sant’Egidio folks are absolutely wonderful, gracious and generous hosts!
All our audiences, teens and adults, were respectful and very attentive with intelligent questions during the Q&A sessions re the practice of the death penalty and my own experience. Every presentation had to be tailored to fit the time limits, given that it took twice as long as normal because of the need for an interpreter, who had to repeat everything that was said. For all my presentations, there was only one in which I did not need an interpreter. That was at the United World College in Udio, where all the students spoke English. (One of these students was from the state of Washington, just west of Montana where we live.) There are 14 of these colleges throughout the world (only one in the US, in Montezuma, NM).
The premise of these very special universities is to bring students together from all over the world to each school, with 35% of the enrollment from each host country, where they will live, study, work and socialize with each other, learning to understand and respect all the other faiths, cultures, customs, etc.. The anticipation is that these young people will be participants in preparing for a peaceful world, with all peoples living in harmony. A wonderful, hopeful concept – I pray that it works!
The last night we stayed in Trieste, we were part of a special program in the City Hall of Udine. There we met Idanna Pucci, the author of a book entitled -The Trials of Maria Barbella-. This book, to my surprise, was about an Italian immigrant living in New York City in the mid-1880’s who was the first woman on OUR country’s death row scheduled to be executed by the electric chair. The author, a delightful woman, was the great-grand-daughter of Cora Slocumb, a courageous Italian-American citizen, born in N’Orleans but living in Italy, who was largely responsible for saving Maria Barbella’s life. The book is the story about how all that happens.
I’ve been speaking on and working for the abolition of the death penalty here in our country and in many places around the world for thirty-plus years, but I’d never, ever heard about Maria Barbella or her experience of many years on New York State’s death row! It’s an amazing, tragic but heroic story and I enthusiastically encourage everyone to read Idanna Pucci’s very well-written book, -The Trials of Maria Barbella-, about a little-known, shameful facet of our country’s death penalty history.
Moving on, Bob and I spent the last half of our Italian sojourn in Padova, outside of Venice, continuing to give presentations there and in cities all around the area, in the very good care of yet more members of the Communio di Sant'Egidio. On the evening of November 30th, all the cities across Italy which were involved with the Cities for Life Campaign each lit up (all night) their special monuments or towers as a sign of their support for the UN’s resolution – a very moving moment of our time there!
The following week, the resolution was indeed passed. Not too difficult to guess on which side the US voted! Unfortunately, the resolution is not mandatory but hopefully, it will put pressure on the US to re-think their policy and practice of capital punishment.
Our last day was a “free” day and we spent it wandering in awe and wonder through the lovely island-city of Venice, where not even bicycles are allowed – only boats of all kinds and walkers like us. We had to pass on the opportunity to ride in a gondola – to do so would have almost required coming home and re-mortgaging our ranch! But it was fun to walk around, gawk at everything and window-shop. Bob saw a beautiful man’s suit in one store that only cost $3000! So, if you’re traveling to Venice, take lots of Euros with you!! But don’t miss it either, if you have the chance to go!
We continue to be ever so grateful for Bill Pelke for suggesting our names to the Community of Sant’Egidio for this work in Italy, and to all the kind, fun-loving, generous members of that Community for their gracious care and goodness to us. Would that there be more folks with the zeal and concern they have for the poor and for genuine social justice!
Posted by CN at 9:24 AM