MIR (Movimento Internazionale di Riconciliazione, the Italian branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation) grew in Palermo during the 80’s and brought together people who shared values of peace and nonviolence. Gianni Colella was among the promoters. To MIR belonged also distinguished personalities such as Rocco Campanella, teacher at the grammar school of Monreale, who was the first financial objector in Italy to refuse to contribute to the financing of weapons through taxes and allocate instead that money for the construction of schools and hospitals.
Since its very beginning, the Movement acted in Sicily as an organization of civil service and information regarding the conscientious objection (offering the possibility of absolving civil service in various associations, committees and magazines such as CRESM or a Committee for the control of choices in energy matters, Comunità Z, Centro Impastato, Papir or LOC) and supporting various initiatives for disarmament and peace in Europe. Of course MIR is also at the forefront against cruise missiles in Comiso and against the US Army base in Sigonella. The Movement organizes meetings with other organizations and associations in the area which share similar spiritual and nonviolent ideas: Comunità dell’Arca, Movimento nonviolento (Nonviolent Movement), CRESM, Lega degli obiettori di coscienza (League of the Conscientious Objectors), Comunità Zeta, Chiama l’Africa and the peace committees. MIR follows some battles lead by political parties such as the Greens and the Radicals and by some labor unions. In addition to the many international campaigns which have been supported over the years – especially doing advocacy against the persecution of the Christians in different parts of the world – MIR organizes debates and book presentations, and is strongly committed within a social fabric which remains still difficult and reluctant to these values. MIR constitutes a real educational activity to peace; in the 90’s, during a period of high tension in the city, MIR took part in many anti-mafia battles as a member of Palermo Anno Uno.
Thanks to its networking ability, some of the MIR members participated, in the early 2000s, in the national experience of the network Rete Lilliput, arranging a group in Palermo following the proposal of father Alex Zanotelli. From 2002 till 2006 the representatives of various associations met at the Diocesan Missionary Center, undertaking many initiatives for human rights, environmental protection, against war, for peace, non-violence, disarmament, taking advantage of the new telematic tools for communication. The “NOT FOR SALE” campaign, the campaign for water as a common good, the boycott of the “armed banks” (Italian banks involved in the sale of weapons produced in Italy to third countries), the promotion of Civil Peace Unions and the one against light weapons are just some of its important national initiatives promoted to sensitize the public opinion. Another goal of the Movement has been the participation in the demonstration in 2003 against the war in Iraq, that brought together three million people throughout Italy. Among its local initiatives, the organization of the Macro South Regional meeting should be mentioned. But above all the creation, by some members of the network and of MIR, of the “Addiopizzo” committee, that has the big merit of attempting a change in the mentality, encouraging retailers to report cases of extortion realized against them by the Mafia.
The MIR network has its center in the regional capital city of Sicily but also extends to its province, in particular to Monreale and Isola delle Femmine, where important initiatives against the Radar Wind Shear installation and against the pollution produced by the company Italcementi take place, also thanks to the engagement of schools and to the fundamental collaboration of the Italian League for Bird Protection LIPU.
After the conclusion of the experience with Lilliput, MIR Palermo is strengthened by a new impulse. It aims to broaden its associative base over the years, organizes ecumenical meetings of prayer for peace, gets in touch with representatives of the Waldensian, Adventist, Orthodox and Lutheran Churches and with the different religions (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Bahai) present in the city, organizing monthly and fortnightly ecumenical prayer meetings for peace and compared biblical studies. MIR is therefore represented within the UPEDI and the Social and Labor Pastoral Council (Pastorale Sociale e del Lavoro) of the Diocese of Palermo.
In the last few years MIR has been battling against the installation of the MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) in Niscemi and against NATO exercises in Birgi. It tries to shed light on the case of Giancarlo Lo Porto, the aid worker from Palermo who has been killed by a US drone after being kidnapped in 2015 at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A case that had been soon covered up by the Italian State.
The civil commitment of MIR takes form in the education for peace through debates, seminars and a film club, which creates a growing interest for issues such as human rights, nonviolence and human smuggling. This last topic is becoming one of the most predominant interests of MIR Palermo, so much that MIR is going to offer full support – trying to involve the whole Movement during the last national assembly held in Palermo – to the association SOS Mediterranée (whose president is an active member of MIR) which, with the help of the vessel Aquarius, constantly saves thousands of lives off the coasts of Lampedusa. At a local level, the Movement also enters into relations with the immigrant communities: one member of the Consulta delle Culture (Board of Cultures) is also a member of MIR Palermo. MIR also helps in case of emergencies, having among its members some volunteers of the Red Cross and of the Caritas, this last also being a national councilor.
As a consultant of the Municipality of Palermo in the field of Education for Peace in schools, MIR Palermo currently promotes recreational activities inspired by the pedagogy of nonviolence, training seminars for teachers of primary and secondary schools, cultural initiatives – in particular the participation in the Peace March taking place from Perugia to Assisi, with the contribution of the Municipality of Palermo – summer camps and a monthly regional nonviolence course for high school students.
In the suburbs of the city, the MIR commitment is aimed at education to legality, through afterschool and sports activities. In the district of Guadagna, MIR supports the “Centro Arcobaleno”, whose founder is the current national councilor of the Movement.
Furthermore, on the initiatives of MIR Palermo, the City Council has recently approved the proposal to establish the Consulta della Pace (Board of Peace) and, at a regional level, the last approval of the law proposal (disegno di legge,abbreviated ddl) n. 501, also known as the “Law for a Culture of Peace” (Legge per una Cultura di Pace) is being awaited, that will allow new initiatives and give new life to the commitment to Peace in Sicily.
MIR Palermo has the legal form of an associazione di promozione sociale (APS), a non-profit association of social utility ruled by Italian law.
MIR Palermo, promotes and presides the “Board of Peace, Nonviolence, Human Rights and Disarmament” (Consulta della Pace) of the City of Palermo. “Consulta della Pace” is composed of 60 different organization. The initiatives of the Board are part of the program of Palermo Capital of Culture 2018, for which MIR has been called to be part of the scientific committee together with the highest cultural institutions of the city.
In view of the second nonviolence world march, whose next edition path will be through Maghreb countries, MIR will organize the Sicilian stop that will take place in Palermo.
MIR and the Board of Peace, from 29th of September till 2nd of October 2018, have promoted the international conference “Mediterranean, Nonviolence and Peace” that took place in Palermo. The conference was attended by the White Helmets operating in Lebanon with the Syrian refugees, the IPRI (Italian Peace Research Institute), the WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) and SOS Mediterranée. The participants, at the end of the conference set the goal of promoting a network of Embassies of Peace and joining IFoR (International Fellowship of Reconciliation) and at the WRI (War Resisters’ International).