I remember with great enthusiasm the choice of the first conscientious objectors in the early 70’s, right after the law, which allowed choosing alternative civilian service to military service, had entered into force. They were paving the way for an adventure that gave hundreds of thousands of young people in Italy the possibility to serve their Fatherland and the Nation through this kind of attention towards the common good and – for many people – of commitment to the poor. Those who had refused to take up arms before this law paid with incarceration for their choice. A rediscovery of gratuity as a way of being and of a relationship based on help in which poor people were no longer the object of assistance, but the protagonists of history and of their own liberation.
I had the opportunity to live this very important life experience too, in the Pope John XXIII Community, alongside Father Oreste Benzi, in the family home of Coriano, before opening the first family home in Piedmont in 1980, exactly in quality of conscientious objector. The Civil Service is rooted in the primacy of the conscience, which often feels inside, in one’s heart, the need to build peace that comes from renovated relationships, from dirtying one’s hands in the folds of history without resorting to the practice of armed struggle, not even against enemies and invaders.
Satyagraha is the search for the truth knows how to walk along new paths of dialogue and build bridges, focusing on what unites rather than on what divides us. It has broken new ground in quality of international civil service. The white helmets are currently engaged on all continents in spreading the culture of peace, which promotes the fundamental rights of every person.
In his Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII said: “This is the peace which we implore of God with the ardent yearning of our prayer. May God banish from our hearts whatever might endanger peace. May God transform us into witnesses of truth, justice and love. May God enlighten the rulers of peoples so that in addition to their solicitude for the proper welfare of their citizens, they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace; may God enkindle the wills of all, so that they many overcome the barriers that divide, cherish the bonds of mutual love, understand others, and pardon those who have done them wrong; by virtue of Christ’s action, may all people of the earth become sisters and brothers, and may the most longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always among us.”
Disastrous wars, which cause the death of many civilians and military men, or mutilate them, will never persuade us. We will always be on the side of the young people who believe in a better world, where our responsible ‘Yes’ will give itself to build a path of peace together with the poor.
Taken from Always