United World Project


May 1st at Loppiano 2024: the realism of young peace operators



Hundreds of young people gathered in Loppiano (Figline and Incisa Valdarno – FI) on May 1st to discover the paths, faces, stories, and initiatives of those who work daily to spread the culture of peace in the fields of economics, politics, associations, research and art.

The rain that fell throughout May 1st, Labor Day, did not hinder the over 600 young people and accompanying adultswho, from various parts of Italy, reached Loppiano (Figline e Incisa Valdarno – FI), the international town of the Focolare Movement, for “Paths Towards Peace” the 52nd edition of the May 1st event in Loppiano. Additionally, there were 200 young people involved in organizing the day, from various nationalities, who together created a rich program consisting of spaces for knowledge, deepening, and discussion, as well as artistic workshops and performances.

Providing the backdrop to the day is the current crisis context, with approximately 60 wars raging across the globe, from Europe to Africa, from Asia to America. “At times, we young people feel truly powerless,” explains Angela from Mozambique, who co-hosted the day alongside Francesco from Italy. “But here, today, we had the opportunity to pause, to reflect, and to reflect together on the paths towards peace that we want to take and that call us to do so starting from ourselves, from our cities, from the contexts in which we live”.

Workshops in the Villages

For the occasion, the Auditorium of Loppiano was symbolically divided into three thematic villages that offered participants the opportunity to engage in workshops, experiences, and dialogues with experts. These villages aimed to explore self-listeningin “Inner Peace”, dialogue and listening to others “Peace with Others”, and to delve into the significant questions of the present time that challenge individuals and states in the village titled “Peace in the World”.

Involved in the various workshops and experiences were professors, experts, and facilitators from several centers and initiatives that promote a culture of peace and militant fraternity in different fields. These include: Sophia University Institute (S.U.I.), the Lionello Bonfanti Industrial Park, the Giorgio La Pira International Student Center, the educational project Living Peace Internationalthe Dancelab Armonia Association, the international bands Gen Verde and Gen RossoNew Humanity NGO, and the United World Project.

The youth from the European project “HeARTmony” were also involved. They hailed from Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Bosnia, Egypt, and Syria – who applied the methodologies they had learned in recent months for the social inclusion of migrants and refugees (through music, dance, and singing) in a workshop on folk dances. Additionally, there were teenagers (aged 13-17) from the European project “MediterraNEW“, which aims to contribute to renewing educational offerings for young generations, especially those with migrant backgrounds, through a multidisciplinary approach.

Among the workshops offered, just to mention a few, there was “Spring of Peace Water,” in which Professor Daniela Ropelato (Sophia University Institute) analyzed the drama of water resource destruction in countries at war, such as Russia, Ukraine, or the Holy Land. Another workshop was “Reconciling Our Cities,” led by urban planner Peter Grudina, who guided participants in discovering the conflicts generated and exacerbated by inadequate urban spaces, and what can be done by ordinary citizens to counteract these phenomena. The workshop on the “Economics of Peace” was highly attended, promoted by the Lionello Bonfanti Polo along with young economists and entrepreneurs from “The Economy of Francesco,” advocates of an economy that prioritizes the individual. Also, the workshop dedicated to new technologies and artificial intelligence led by Professor Andrea Galluzzi (Sophia University Institute) was packed, guiding young people in reflecting on the development of the “self” and the “collective” through the technological shell that surrounds every individual today.

And so the United World Week begins!

Then, at 1:00 PMthe live streaming of the opening show of the the 2024 United World Week started from the stage of the Auditorium.This global event, which takes place from May 1st to May 7th every year, engages hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in promoting cultural, social, or sports initiatives that foster unity, fraternity, and peace among individuals and peoples.

The live broadcast opened with Issa, connecting from Bethlehem,who delivered his prayer for peace: “Faced with violence, let us remember the prayer of Saint Francis and ask God to make us instruments of peace, to stand by the weak in their suffering, to help us not turn away, to speak the truth, and not to be afraid.”

On the stage at Loppiano, the story of Gioiaan Italian just come of age, courageously rediscovered the joy of living, overcoming the fears and ghosts that had led her into depression. Following her, Mitko from Bulgaria, who, growing up alone, chose the path of reconciliation with his parents instead of indifference and hatred. Then there’s the story of Marco from Turin, who, along with his friends (about 60 young people), distributes meals to people living on the streets near railway stations and parks in his city. “For some of us, it’s an opportunity to break stereotypes and prejudices against those living on the streets,” he explains. “This is only possible when you listen to their stories of suffering and loneliness. For others, it’s a way to step out of their comfort zone and to serve those in need.” Agnes, an Ugandan doctor, shares how, thanks to the “Together for a New Africa” project, she has been able to adopt a new mindset, aiming to become an agent of positive change in her country. Besides practicing medicine at a hospital in northern Uganda, she has initiated a tree-planting project with the youth in her community, promoting environmental conservation and the concept of climate justice.

Finally, there was plenty of music and dance with youthful enthusiasm from the young people at Loppiano undergoing fraternity training and the dancers from the DanceLab Armonia Association, who are advocates of the International Festival “Harmony Among Peoples” in Montecatini.

1mo Maggio Loppiano_Foto Comunicazione Loppiano
1mo Maggio Loppiano_Foto Comunicazione Loppiano

Among the many voices on stage was Matteo Faustini, a singer-songwriter who won the Area Sanremo competition in 2019 and the Lunezia prize for the literary value of his lyrics at the 2020 Sanremo Festival in the emerging artists category.

“This morning, we talked about a culture of war that drags us into negativity and often makes us close off to others,” clarified Francesco, the Italian host, at the end of the event. “But today, through our stories and art, we wanted to testify to a culture of peace that isn’t just for dreamers”.

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