BRIDGE CC, Rome: Youth intercultural cooperation project kicks off

(The following article was published in the Glocal Forum Newsletter of fall/winter 2008)


Glocal Forum NewsletterGlocal Forum Italy, World Conference of Religions for Peace Italia,Centro Sportivo Italiano, Centro Islamico Culturale d’Italia, Eugenio Montale High School, Giovani per un Mondo Unito and the Municipality of Rome have launched an intercultural youth project for the 2008-2009 scholastic year, Amicizia Oltre La Paura (or Friendship Over Fear). The project involves Rome public high schools, as well as religiously affiliated schools (such as the Iranian School, Renzo Levi high school and the school of the Islamic Cultural Centre) in a “5 a side” soccer tournament (for males) and a volleyball tournament (for females) that aims to create a culture that goes beyond fear of cultural diversity and towards intercultural understanding and cooperation.

As an increasingly diverse city, Rome  urgently needs to promote a culture that shuns acts of intolerance and fear of diversity and that instead recognizes religious and cultural differences as part of a city’s enrichment. Inspired by the European Union’s Year of Intercultural Dialogue-2008, the project uses sports as a tool to foster understanding, for example each sports match will end with a “third period” in which the two teams will participate in intercultural exercises, share their culture’s typical foods and get to know one another. Sports are unanimously considered an important instrument to encourage dialogue, overcome social barriers and facilitate constructive encounter between persons from different backgrounds. Sports are also an ideal vehicle to attract and bring together children and youth, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with their peers of different religious faiths. As sports are an ideal means of stimulating the body, mind and spirit of young people, the Amicizia Oltre la Paura project is a unique opportunity to stimulate and encourage intercultural and interfaith dialogue between young people.

URI EuropeGlocal Forum Italy and The Glocal Forum strongly believe in the power of sports as a catalyst to promote dialogue and development. Since it was founded in 2001, The Glocal Forum has carried out a number of sports activities. These have included local sports programs with the aim of strengthening the development of young people in disadvantaged areas and encouraging intercultural and interfaith dialogue, in order to create mutual understanding. Between 2003 and 2004 The Glocal Forum collaborated with the Municipality of Rome to implement the “Glocal Peace Games,” a sports initiative in Rome focused on encouraging dialogue among the younger generation from conflict regions in the world. The games were held between teams composed of young people from Rwanda – with Hutu and Tutsi origins – and teams composed of young people from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Moreover, Glocal Forum Italy and The Glocal Forum promote a program for vulnerable youth and children, We Are the Future (WAF), which includes a strong sports component. The press conference launch of Amicizia Oltre la Paura was held during the Settimana di Vita Colletiva (or Week of Collective Life) event in October 2008 and featured the participation of hundreds of students, the Cuban volleyball star Yasser Portuondo (political refugee in Italy since 2007); Maria Nicoletta Gaida, President of Glocal Forum Italy; Valerio Piccioni, a journalist from Gazzetta dello Sport; Giuseppe Capua, Councillor for Sport of the City of Rome; Luigi De Salvia, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace-Italia; and Franco Mazzalupi, President of the Rome Provincial Committee of Centro Sportivo Italiano. Enrolment of the 14-15 schools is currently being concluded and consultations are taking place with them regarding the possibility of scaling up the intercultural dialogue components of the project. The soccer and volleyball tournaments will begin in January 2009. To reinforce the values of the project, disciplinary sanctions given during the tournaments will be converted into voluntary service time in the project’s time bank: players receiving sanctions will work off such penalties by working as a volunteer in their school or in the project. Moreover, the tournament will be concluded during the National School Celebration in May 2009 with the best soccer and volleyball teams being awarded a Noah’s Ark Trophy representing commonality between the three “Abrahamic” religions and, regardless of religion, a symbol of salvation and unity of populations. Moreover, the Amicizia Oltre la Paura prize will go to the team that best carried out the message of the tournament: respect for the values of fair play and intercultural dialogue and cooperation.