The Citadel of Peace Association was founded 20 years ago by Franco Vaccari who had an interest in conflict resolution. Mr Vaccari took the formerly abandoned Italian village of Rondine in Tuscany and turned it into a centre for conflict resolution which was nominated in 2015 for the Nobel Peace Prize. Over the years, young people from areas of conflict around the world have come to the village and the centre in a bid to promote understanding and peace. Those who are welcomed at the centre for a course of study come from countries such as; Israel and the Palestinian Authority; Serbia and Bosnia; Armenia and Azerbaijan; Russia and Chechnya.
Transforming conflicts and Peace Building
Greeting the 350 members of the Association in the Vatican on Monday, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Pope Francis told those gathered that in these twenty years they had “developed a method capable of transforming conflicts, bringing young people out of this deception and sending them back to their peoples for full spiritual, moral, cultural and civil development: generous young people who, blameless, were born with the burden of the failures of previous generations.”
By choosing to dedicate yourselves to young people, the Pope said, “you are also committed to fighting poverty and building peace, as a work of justice and love. An action that nourishes hope and places trust in man, especially in young people.”
The Pontiff went on to discuss an appeal the Citadel of Peace Association has written and which will be presented to the UN on 10 December, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Pope Francis said that, “listening to a young Palestinian and a young Israeli together asking the governments of the world to take a step that can reopen the future, transferring the cost of a weapon from the budget of defense to the budget of education to form a peace leader, is a rare and beautiful thing!… I feel I must give you all my support, my sympathy, my blessing.”
“Your Appeal”, the Pope continued, “contains and proposes a concrete vision”, adding that he supported it and asked Heads of State and Government to do likewise.
The role of Peace Leaders
Peace leaders, the Pope underlined, “are not those politicians who do not know how to dialogue and confront each other: a leader who does not strive to meet the ‘enemy’, to sit with him at the table as you do, cannot lead his people towards peace. To do this we need humility and not arrogance.” Peace, Pope Francis concluded, “is everyone’s responsibility.”