The launch event of the National Day of Civilian Victims of Wars and Conflicts in the World on 1 February 2024, established with law number 9 of 25 January 2017, to preserve the memory, was held in the Motherhouse of the Mutilated and Disabled in War. of the conflicts of the past and to draw attention to the drama that civilians all over the world are experiencing today in theaters of war. The event, presented by the journalist and activist Metis di Meo, was organized by the National Association of Civil War Victims (Anvcg), which represents and protects civilian victims of war and their families in Italy, to launch the ‘Stop to bombs on civilians’ to ask that international treaties, conventions and declarations in defense of civilians be respected, implemented and expanded.
Over 200 municipalities have joined the campaign, thanks to the collaboration with Anci, numerous Regions and the main institutions (Palazzo Chigi, Chamber, Senate and numerous Ministries) which tomorrow evening will illuminate the facades of the buildings, or symbolic monuments, with a light blue. In the morning, the winning students of the national school competition organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Merit were also awarded and the twelfth edition of the Atlas of World Wars and Conflicts was presented.
The words of Pope Francis were listened to with great emotion as he, at the conclusion of today’s general audience, recalled the National Day, hoping that “the cry of pain” of those experiencing the horror of war “can touch the hearts of the leaders of the nations and inspire peace projects”. Marco Osnato, president of the Finance Commission of the Chamber, representing the president of the Chamber of Deputies, underlined Italy’s commitment “alongside civilians oppressed by fighting or by totalitarian regimes, for this reason we continue to ask for respect for the conventions that limit or prohibit the use of special munitions that are harmful to those inalienable rights of the person which, as they are universal, do not change depending on the latitudes or political contexts, we will continue to defend those persecuted in non-democratic countries and war refugees. This Day is not rhetoric, it is history but above all the present and living season of our global commitment”.
Francesco Rocca, president of the Lazio Region, invited us to reflect on the suffering of civilian victims “from 7 October onwards I see only barbarity: the barbarity of the Hamas attack, the barbarity of Israel’s response, it is the only interpretation I can give . Now civilians have become military tactics: the siege, cutting off water, preventing the entry of humanitarian aid or saying we’ll give you a two-day truce and then starting killing you again. Behind this information there are people, families and stories: there are no blame and no reasons when you look at civilian victims. Let’s work so that the Rome treaties on the International Criminal Court are finally followed up because what is a law or a convention if there is no sanction for its violation? We witness helplessly in the face of pain, those who suffer the most are always the most fragile: children, the elderly, women victims of rape. We have also lost respect for the last secularly sacred place: the hospital has become a military target and so have the humanitarian workers.”
Michele Vigne, national president of the National Association of Civilian Victims of War, recalled how “in the tragic fate that we civilian victims have suffered lies not only the suffering but also the potential, almost the civic duty, to become the most credible promoters of peace, because the experience we lived made us understand once and for all that the protection of civilians must be an absolute value, above any partisan alignment. For this reason, and even more today in the current tragic international context, our commitment is to all the civilian victims of the world, through the ‘Stop bombing civilians’ campaign we strongly ask that international conventions, treaties and declarations, which already they exist for the protection of civilians, they must not remain a dead letter but must be implemented and extended”.
“We ask – he continued – for respect for the principles of international humanitarian law on the legal and moral illegitimacy of any attack that targets the population and civilian structures. What we civilian victims of war want to reiterate, and on this day more than never, is that when we remember the facts of the past, our stories, we are expressing the strong need that similar experiences should no longer be lived by anyone, anywhere in the world.”
Claudio Betti, president of the National Association of War Amputees and Invalids and president of the Confederation of combatant and partisan associations, hosted the event: “We are here in a secular temple which represents the memory of the war with its dramas, the first stone it was laid in 1925 and shortly thereafter plunged into a new world conflict. Celebrations like this Day are necessary to pass on to young people the horror of wars by contrasting it with the primary good of peace. We children of soldiers forced to go to war, today more than at other times feel the need to remember the past so that the dramas that are repeated come to an end. Peace is not just the lack of war, peace is fullness, that peace is not a dream but a concrete hope that distinguishes free men.”
Antonio Ragonesi, responsible for the safety and legality area of Anci, said he was “very satisfied with the participation of the Municipalities which is growing year after year and the increase in the involvement of the Regions for this Day and for its symbolic action of the blue lighting of palaces and monuments. It is an important act of raising citizens’ awareness of key values such as respect for life, education, global citizenship and peace. After the Second World War and in a spirit of peace, the local communities initiated numerous twinnings with French and German cities. This diplomacy of the cities is extremely significant, the spirit of which we also recognize in the initiative of 1 February, are the communities which, from below, they influence the top interests of the nation states, it is a counter-balancing that manages to build useful and effective peace paths”.
Paola Frassinetti, undersecretary of the Ministry of Education and Merit, spoke through a video message underlining the importance of the school competition in collaboration with the ministry: “the over 500 works are a splendid result that demonstrates the great sensitivity of the students, this initiative places the emphasis on today’s tragedies of war, they happen today like yesterday, as happened in Gorla in the massacre that killed 184 children from the Francesco Crispi school. Education has a fundamental role in building a future of peace, these works convey the sincere desire to promote it and to ensure that a better future can be built from the lessons of the tragedies of the past”.
The presentation of the twelfth edition of the Atlas of Wars and Conflicts of the World saw the director Raffaele Crocco on stage who, together with Nicolas Marzolino, Anvcg national councilor, answered some questions from the students. Raffaele Crocco, journalist responsible for the Atlas of Wars and Conflicts of the World, said how “as a journalist I have covered many wars but it was in front of the corpse of a 10 year old child in Yugoslavia that something changed, when I returned to place where the international press gathered, I felt with amazement how the news was the bullet that had hit the child, because it was theoretically supplied to NATO and not to the Serbs, and not the child. So I decided to use my profession to explain that war is the effect, not the cause.”
“When I talk about conflicts I don’t just mean the fight over the conquest of a territory, a border or a mine, I mean the lack of rights. We live in a world where as we speak 828 million individuals risk dying of hunger, 2 billions of individuals live on less than 1.90 dollars a day while there are 2,500 billionaires in the world, 10 thousand people die every day without access to medical care, 2 billion people do not have a nearby source of water – he underlined – The war can end in an instant if we decide not to fight it, if we remove the reasons why we consider the idea of killing and being killed tolerable. Is it utopia? Yes, but giving people the right tools to understand, with information, is possible and in this peace is concreteness”.
Nicolas Marzolino, Anvcg national councilor, told his story “I was 16 years old, ten years ago, and with two friends we were cultivating a field in Novalesa when we found what looked like a silvery red light. I picked it up to understand what it was, then suddenly bright flashes, whistles and complete dizziness. It was a bomb: I lost my right hand and my sight.” One of the students asked what an individual can do in the face of the tragedy of civilian victims other than feeling total helplessness.
Nicolas replied: “I fear indifference more than impotence. We must inform ourselves, understand the history and causes of the war but above all we must try to empathize. Let’s think of one of our peers whose house is destroyed by a missile, who loses a leg, and whose sister is killed. If you close your eyes and imagine a scene like this, it gives you shivers. Everyone in their own small way can work for a world of peace and it is important to do so in countries that live in peace because then when you are under the bombs you only think about escaping. We must all be less indifferent.”
During the event, messages of support were also read by the President of the Senate Ignazio La Russa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Antonio Tajani, the Ministry of Defense and the Minister for Disabilities Alessandra Locatelli.