The Voice of the Susa Valley/3

photo by Stefano Careglio

I’m publishing the letter of a Franciscan of the Susa Valley (Val di Susa), Beppe Giunti. It is long, but it’s worth taking the time to read it all.

“Many friends from our Community are asking me, and they are right to do so, why at the moment I am in the middle of this TAV (fast train) issue. They are asking why I marched from Bussoleno to Susa and why I positioned myself yesterday morning between a section of police returning from a night-time blitz and the crowd of ordinary people who were keen to give back truncheon attacks and insults.

The main reason is because the Christian faith is not an abstraction, a philosophy, but the consequence of a God who becomes man, in a precise context in time and culture. The incarnation is one of the principal mysteries of the faith and the central criteria of following Christ.

It follows from this that the believer cannot “call himself out” from any type of situation where values are at issue. Thus, faith cannot have a privatised dimension. In recent months, both the teachings of Pope Benedict as well as some interventions by the Italian Bishops Conference have reminded us about those who want the Christian Community to stay silent about important issues (marriage, usury, common law couples). There is no doubt for believers: every reality that involves human choices at various levels, there they must be present.

The second reason, the massive and important question of the train with high capacity to transport goods (in fact it is not mainly a high speed passenger train, TAV is only a slogan for both sides, (pro and contra). The game to play for is whether to keep the route for the exchange of goods to the South of the Alps through Genoa, Marseilles and Barcelona or leave those to the north through Rotterdam). Is this the situation?

I believe it is. The method (participatory democracy which involves the intermediate subjects according to the subsidiarity principle) has been turned upside down (decision by top-level economics and finance people then a signature by International politicians). At the centre, is the market, not people. The idea of “progress” that is developed in the “pro” documents does not talk about the quality of life but of the growth of wealth. There has been no preliminary study carried out by an independent research organisation to assess the environmental and economic consequences (of the type carried out for the tunnel under the English Channel – of the negative aspects of the project – and for how many years they may last). The financial dimension of the project does not require an investigation into whether equivalent results could be brought about by other means.

Results of technical analysis carried out at the request of the Mountain Communities in the valley have been available for ten years. Now the citizens have the feeling that they themselves count for nothing.

What’s more, I believed that my presence, like that of many other priests, mayors, High School teachers of the Valley, representatives of associations could have lessened clashes and kept the demonstration at a level of respect, listening and democracy. I participated in the march of the 50,000 because I belong to no Party, but I wanted to be together with the mayors, who I believe to be the closest ring of the nation. A priest cannot be a member of a political movement nor can he become a member of a political party. But here it’s simply a matter of being a citizen.

Unfortunately, last night’s events in Venaus, and before that the many declarations by people who are responsible for the public good (I believe this is the noble way of recognising politicians, such as, for example, Minister Lunardi), the 10-year silence on the part of most of the national information media and now their folkloric interest (the marching banners, the clubs, the bonfires, weariness of the police, the polenta at the garrisons of Venaus), the choice of the person responsible for the public good in relation to public order (Minister Pisanu) to militarise the Valley and to order the blitz (carried out using old-fashioned methods of the 1950’s, Scelba docet? – at night in silence – giving orders to the photographers to go away, with the implication and the justified pretence regarding the presence of anarchists infiltrated among the people or at least violent people, never seen in the Valley on this occasion but who turned up in Turin after the blitz), the emotional reaction of the whole population (yesterday morning in the car belonging to the local authority of Bussoleno, with a microphone we had great trouble - a mayor, a well-known partisan of the area and myself – we struggled to put an end to the physical violence) which stops us from reasoning about the facts about the data and not on the slogans; all this makes it difficult to stay with this campaign.

I believe that I have done and that I must continue to do this little thing because I am a monk, a Christian and a citizen.

A final reflection, this was not picked up by many people: the intensity of the coming together, the circulation of documents, the confrontation in tiny groups and in big assemblies, the mixing of cultural, political, and religious identities that took place on this occasion demonstrates something, whether or not this monstrous engineering feat goes ahead – that directs us to think again about the development model we want for future generations. In this, the Christian tradition has plenty to say (refer to the teaching in our continent of Pope John Paul II)
so that especially in Europe it’s not about markets but about people,
so that the waste of energy changes to the reasoned use of resources,
so that consumption does not become the new idol to which we burn incense.

While I’m writing, now that I have been out in the streets again to meet up with scores of ordinary people who are not terrorists, I can summarise the feeling of the people with the word “offended”, because we have not been listened to because we have been treated like violent delinquents, because we have not been understood.

I have been offended – at a fork in the road from Bussoleno to Mattie – by men in uniform – of my own Nation – and after I identified myself (I quote: “You are an animal, take this beast away, I am of the State…”) while I was attempting a limited mediation that actually protected a small group of police. But I’m reminded of the teaching of Saint Francis: an insult hurts the one who hurls it, not the one who is hit by it.
Many thanks if you make this known. Many thanks if you respond. Many thanks if you help us to think more on this topic even by providing documents that are pro and con relevant to all that is discussed here.

Brother Beppe Giunti, Guardian of the convent of San Francesco di Susa

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 01:14 AM in | Comments (0)
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