Over 500 AFS volunteers attended a conference in Trento (Trient, Nothern Italy) on 1-2-3 May to celebrate the AFS Centennial. The topic of the conference was “Learning to live together: humanitarianism, reconciliation and education for plural societies”. 16 well known international speakers introduced case studies of reconciliation and peace education after severe conflicts in South Africa, Bosnia, the Basque countries, Northern Ireland, South Tyrol, Israel and Palestine and offered their stories of successes and failures for group discussions. The Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mario Giro, was the key-note speaker.
A special “guest star” of the event was one of the three original AFS ambulances that survived from World War I: it was lent by a private French collector, Rémi Thevenin, and it was transported all the way from Paris to Trient by one of our volunteers. It was exhibited on the Cathedral square and for three days it became the main attraction for locals and tourists.
Beside the workshops the conference offered several musical events including a concert with songs from WW1, a play on the war in Bosnia about unexpected acts of courage that saved human lives between rival ethnic groups, a banquet in a winery and a moving closing session on the hill of Rovereto, where the gigantic Bell of Peace (the third largest in the world, made with the bronze of cannons donated by all countries involved in WW1) rang 100 times at noon on Sunday to remind us all of the tragedy of wars and of our Centennial.
Trient was chosen to be the site of the celebration because in 1915 this region was a border region under the government of Austria, heavily involved in WW1: it passed under Italian rule at the end of that war. Among the 500 who attended, there were volunteers from all over Italy, Belgium, Hungary, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Serbia and Austria – including the Chairman of the AFS Board of Trustees Christian Werle.
For more info Roberto Ruffino [email protected]