News bulletin of the Federation of protestant churches in Italy–January 2015
“From admitted cults to religious freedom”: a FCEI’s conference at the Italian Senate
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – Promoted by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), in collaboration with the Commission of Evangelic Churches for Relations with the State (CCERS), on 16 and 17 February at the Italian Senate will take place a Conference with the title “From admitted cults to religious freedom”. Dedicated to the memory of the jurist and former FCEI’s president Gianni Long, the conference will have the participation of Italian and international experts on a topic of increasing relevance in Italy, a more and more pluralistic country, also from a confessional point of view. Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of FCEI, explained that the sense of the congress is to renew the commitment of the Italian Protestant Churches in support of a new rule which must go beyond the fascist law on ‘admitted cults’ to fully guarantee the constitutional principles of religious freedom.
Many Italian and European experts will participate to the meeting, among others Msgr. Nunzio Galatino, general secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), a special signal of attention to a theme which is not only a problem for protestants but for all faith communities.
For the full program please click here.
To participate in the conference please apply for accreditation by February 14, 2015 write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mediterranean Hope/1. An English newsletter to connect the project’s supporters
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – The project Mediterranean Hope (MH) of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) continues to define its profile: it now not only includes an “Observatory on Mediterranean Migrations” based in Lampedusa and a “House of Cultures” in Scicli (RG) for the reception of particularly vulnerable migrants, but wants to be a national and international place for the production and sharing of materials and tools of analysis on the migration processes in the Mediterranean. This is why from now on monthly a newsletter in English will be available to strengthen links between churches, associations and friends from around the world. The newsletter will be the tool to stay connected, to promote meetings and exchanges, offer useful information to raise European and international public awareness on a topic of great humanitarian and social importance.
Mediterranean Hope/2. The “House of cultures” in full swing
Scicli (NEV) January 31, 2015 – The “House of Cultures” represents a special project for vulnerable migrants and most particularly for unaccompanied minors, a raising phenomenon who is now estimated to reach about 10.000 youngsters on the whole national territory. At present about 40 guests (the maximum the house can receive), mainly unaccompanied minors and families with newborn babies, are included in the project. They were addressed by the Prefect’s office of Ragusa to the City ofPozzallo and from there to this structure. All the guests tell dramatic stories and still suffer from the terrible conditions of their trip by sea to reach Italy. Everyone of them will be part of a sustainable migration project. A specific office – operating in Scicli and Rome – is active in the achievement of this goal and also in a task of dialogue with the local community to facilitate mutual integration. The “Mediterranean Hope” project of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) also includes an observatory on migrations centred in Lampedusa (more to be read here).
MediterraneanHope/3. FCEI protests against an article of the daily ‘La Sicilia’
Rome(NEV), January 31, 2015-“Great disappointment” for an articleproviding ‘inaccurate and superficial’ information was expressed by Gian Mario Gillio, communications manager of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), in a letter sent to the director of the daily ‘La Sicilia’, Mario Ciancio Sanfilippo, in relation to what Concetta Bonini wrote last December 19. Title of the article ‘Scicli, migrants and the ‘House of cultures’ – Nova Lex: ‘It seems only business’”. Two, in particular, are the points on which Gillio made objections and for which he asked a correct information. The first: according to Nova Lex – a local political and cultural movement – the Methodist Church is defined as “a sect of Catholic derivation”; the second: the project Mediterranean Hope, according to Bonini, “is just a clear business which derives profit from the thousands of migrants who, statistically, only for a small part flee from war and violence, while the great majority is just looking for comfortable assistance financed with the Italians and Europeans taxes”.
Mediterranean Hope/4. The “House of Cultures” of Scicli: a place of integration
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – More than hundred people flocked on Saturday January 17, in the premises of the “House of cultures” in Scicli (RG) for an evening of photographs and stories. “Invitation to a journey: the East” was the title of the first of a series of meetings enlivened by the photographer Mario Benenati, to discover other cultures, traditions, religions. Great satisfaction was expressed by Giovanna Scifo, coordinator of the ‘House of cultures’, for the initiative organized together with the local cultural association “Vitaliano Brancati”. Next appointments will be on India, then Indonesia and Thailand. They will always take place in the premises of the ‘House of cultures’ which is in the city centre of Scicli, close to the local Methodist Church.
Ecumenism. From 18 to 25 January, the Italian Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (SPUC)
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – The Italian edition of the Week of prayer for Christian Unity (SPUC), edited by the Italian Bible Society (SBI), was introduced by a presentation jointly signed by bishop Mansueto Bianchi, president of the Episcopal Commission for Ecumenism and dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI); Metropolitan Gennadios Zervos, Orthodox Archbishop for Italy and Malta and Exarch for Southern Europe; and Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). The three Christian leaders recalled how praying together allows believers to anticipate the unity they are looking for and at the same time already experience through the various accents of their common prayer. Many were, throughout the whole country, the scheduled events: prayer watches, pulpit exchanges, conferences, concerts, theatre performances, children and youth meetings. Several were also the meetings organized by city and regional Church Councils.
Attacks in Paris. Solidarityfrom the Italian protestant churches
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – After the attack to the weekly Charlie Hebdo, occurred in Paris on January 7, and the subsequent hostages-taking in a kosher supermarket – terrorist attacks which together counted 17 victims – Italian protestants released several statements and deliberations. Among others, Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) in a press release of January 7th declared that with this events Europe has been further dragged into a path of violence increasingly bloody and more and more worrying. Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board, wrote to Pastor Laurent Schlumberger, president of the United Protestant Church of France, to express solidarity in this difficult time underlying the churches’ responsibility in promoting interfaith dialogue against every form of integralism. The Italian Union of the 7th Day Adventist Churches (UICCA) affirmed to be confident that the great French democracy will be able to firmly and wisely reject any attempt planned by fanatical factions to instil hatred against Islam or even towards migrants and foreigners. Finally the group for Jewish, Islamic and Christian dialogue (DECI) of Florence, in expressing its strong condemnation for the attacks, affirmed that these events even if linked to soi-disant Islamic groups, are not expressions of religious faith but of precise political strategies. The group firmly rejected also the false equation Muslim-terrorism.
Remembrance day. A FCEI’s message of closeness with the Jewish communities
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – “We are approaching the anniversary of the Remembrance day, an important and shared appointment, which this year comes after the new and worrying manifestations of intolerance and anti-Semitism that are painfully reappearing in Europe. To you and to the Union of Jewish communities in Italy, I express the deep spiritual closeness of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy”, with these words opens the letter that pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), sent to Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) on the occasion of the memorial day on 27 January. In the message pastor Aquilante renews the wish that the challenge of the transformation of consciences in the memory of the dreadful tragedy of the Shoah, may receive a vital impulse in the very moment in which Europe and the whole world are facing new anti-Semitism revivals and worrying rumors of war.
The Bible in school. InviewofEXPO2015a competition on”The food in the Bible”
Rome(NEV), January 31, 2015-About two hundredschools havealreadyaccepted the proposallaunched by the association Biblia, which for the last thirty years has been engaged in the spreading of biblical culture especially in schools.
Thetitle of the competitionlaunchedforthis school year, is a themethat refersexplicitly to EXPO2015, “The food in the Bible: searching and sharingthe bread”. Many the schools who joined the projectsince last June,but the deadlinefor the presentation of the papers indicated by the call is next March 15.
The competition is one of the fruitsof the agreement betweenthe Ministry of EducationandBiblia, recentlyrenewedfor a second termand coordinated bya joint committee of whichis also part PaoloNaso, coordinator of thestudies Commission of the Federationof Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). Members of the staff of the Education Service (SIE) of FCEI will participate in the evaluation and selection phases of the projects, along with other experts of different orientation.
Religious buildings in Lombardy. President FCEI: “the new rule is unconstitutional”
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – The regional Council of Lombardy approved – on the very date of the Remembrance Day – a detrimental rule for religious freedom which exacerbates the construction procedures of new worship places. Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), in denouncing the decision, expressed the wish that such a rule might be declared unconstitutional, since it represents a serious wound for democracy and civil society in addition to a breach of freedom of religion and belief. Further he expressed solidarity all religious communities affected by the new ruling.
On January 27, representatives of religious minorities and philosophical associations launched an appeal to the Lombard councilors of the majority, not to vote the legislative measures. The appeal was signed – among others – by Samuel Bernardini, president of the Consistory of the Waldensian Church of Milan, Carlo de Michelis, president of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Milan, Vittorio Bellavite, coordinator of the Catholic Movement “We are Church”, Reas Syed, legal manager of the Coordination of the Islamic Associations of Milano-Monza Brianza (CAIM), Riccardo Tocco, president of the National Evangelical Conference (COEN), Luisa Bordiga of the Milanese Council for secular institutions, and Valeria Rosini of the Union of atheists, agnostics and rationalists (UAAR).
Religions in school. A good proposal launched by Catholic theologian Vito Mancuso
Rome (NEV), January 31, 2015 – “If religions seem to take up such an important place in the public arena, it is right to know how to reason about them in appropriate and rigorous terms. The idea of a secular education of religions is not new, but today it seems more urgent and even more necessary to fight such a demeaning religious illiteracy, prejudice and superficiality, with which improvised analysts debate of topics that deserve specific skills”. So Paolo Naso – coordinator of the Studies commission of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) and Professor of Political Science at La Sapienza University of Rome where he also coordinates the Master in religions and cultural mediation – commented the article by Vito Mancuso published last January 22nd by “La Repubblica” entitled: “A new ghost haunting Europe”. “Italy can no longer afford to waste such a golden opportunity as the teaching hour of religion” said the Catholic theologian “and therefore we need to transform the current schedule from teaching the Catholic religion in a time in which ‘all’ religions are presented … This ‘hour of religions’, is not a matter of belief, but of knowledge and must be mandatory and have the same curricular dignity as other subjects”. “Introducing the religions in the normal courses of study is not a confessional failure but on the contrary would be a test of the inclusive strength of secularism. The availability of Italian Catholic Church leaders to think in news terms about school and ‘religions’, would be a great sign of openness and understanding of the importance of cultural and religious pluralism of which we are all witnesses” – concluded Mancuso.
** From January 31 to February 1 one of the pre-meetings in view of the convention of the Federation of Protestant Women in Italy (FDEI), took place in Scicli (Ragusa, Sicily). The meeting was held at the “House of Cultures”, recently opened in the Sicilian town within the project Mediterranean Hope of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). The pre-congress was entitled “Migration and Mediterranean Hope: a contribution of the protestant women”. “It was an opportunity – said Gianna Urizio, outgoing FDEI president – to present women who have been working with migrants for twenty years and try to analyze what synergies are possible for a comprehensive migration program: from the arrival to the integration in the Italian society”.
** From next February 1 the 2015 edition of the “Concerts on the staircase” will start in Venice: the annual musical event, conceived, organized and sponsored by the Lutheran church of the lagoon city. The program foresees 9 concerts every first Sunday of the month (except the summer break in July and August) to be held on the staircase of the church auditorium in Campo SS. Apostoli. The event is financed in part with the 8 per thousand funds of the Lutheran church and for this reason all the concerts will be free. The commitment of the lagoon community is rooted in the importance that music and singing, play in the Lutheran culture.