The Waldensian movement, stemming from the work of Peter Waldo in the 12th century in Lyon, France, was marked from its very outset by a firm attachment to the authority of scripture. In 1184, the movement was officially excommunicated and the Waldensians were then scattered to various parts of Europe. They put down particularly deep roots in the Alpine region of Piedmont, still known as the Waldensian Valley.
At the Waldensian Synod of Chanforan in 1532, the Waldensians decided to adopt the Reformed system for the organization of their own life. They built their first church in 1555, but they continued to be exposed to severe persecution. A new stage in the history of the Waldensian Church in Italy was initiated by the Emancipation Edict of 1848, which although not a declaration of full religious liberty, did rescind much discriminatory legislation and enabled the Waldensians to establish themselves in various parts of Italy. In 1979, the Waldenisan Church was federated with the Italian Methodist Church. The two churches maintain their separate identities but are joined in a single Synod. In 1990, the Waldensian-Methodist churches entered a covenant with the Baptist churches in Italy. The Waldensian Church’s membership is small, but it holds a disproportionately strong influence and positive reputation in society, due in part to its consistently strong and active sense of social responsibility and involvement.
Mediterranean Hope (MH) is a project of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), funded by the Otto per Mille system [see below] of the Waldensian and Methodist Churches, and some protestant churches abroad. The MH project began just a few months after the massacre of 3 October 2013, when 368 migrants died near the island of Lampedusa. According to the Fortress Europe Observatory, from 1988 to today, irregular migration via the Mediterranean has killed nearly twenty thousand people along the route to Italy. Mediterranean Hope offers programs and services on the islands of Lampedusa and Sicily, and has instituted the Humanitarian Corridors" program in collaboration with the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Waldensian Church. In December 2015, these organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior which, under the Regulations on visas for the Schengen area, allow migrants in “vulnerable conditions” to apply for a “humanitarian” visa at the Italian consular offices of Lebanon, Morocco and Ethiopia. On their safe and legal arrival in Italy, asylum seekers are welcomed in special reception facilities.
Otto per Mille
The Waldensian Church participates and receives public funds through the Italian Otto per Mille (“eight per thousand”) for the purpose of social programs, both within Italy and globally. This fund is available to several religious organizations in Italy, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical Christian agencies, as well as Buddhist, Jewish, and others. Each Italian citizen has the option to designate 0.8% (or an eight-per-thousand) portion of their annual taxes to an organization of her/his choice. The Waldensian Church, although a small Protestant Church in a predominantly Catholic country, is well known for its social engagement and programs, and so it receives a portion of the Otto per Mille funds which is higher than its own membership. The Waldensian Church has committed to using the funds it receives for social services, development, and relief and not for church buildings, salaries, or other denominational expenses.
The Otto per Mille Fund of the Waldensian Church has made available to Global Ministries partners a significant amount of funds for the 2015-2017 period, and again in 2018-2020, for “Impact Projects.” This collaboration is a benefit of partnership which extends the connections they, and we, have in new ways. Having designated the regions of Africa and the Middle East as priorities, the funds support Global Ministries partners in those regions as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and Southern Asia. Global Ministries is delighted, proud, and grateful for this partnership, and the opportunity to share in this creative and impactful approach to partnership.