Introduction - Florence 7 april 2017

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24 april 2017 – Video and text of the introductory speech by prof. Silvio Calzolari, Secretary of FOB, at the presentation of the Acts of the 1st Conference by FOB, Laicity and Freedom of Belief in Italy, and greetings by Honourable Luciano Ciocchetti.

I am pleased and honored, to be with you this afternoon, and happy for the beautiful words of doctor Alessandro Lo Presti.

I had come here to ask for the Tuscany Regional Council’s venue because I know that the Tuscany Region, represented by its Chairman, as well as by Alessandro is taking the issue of rights, of religious freedom, of human rights tout court in great consideration. I knew that we were in a worthy place, one that could acknowledge the message we want to launch.

I am particularly pleased that President Eugenio Giani has now arrived, and I am honored to have him among my closest friends since so many, many years, and I am also particularly pleased to see in the audience another great and dear friend who has been a Senator and President, a member of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Emeritus President of OSCE: Honorable Riccardo Migliori.

I wanted, then, to invite him to say a few words.

I wanted to let you know that, unfortunately, for reasons related to family problems, Honorable Ciocchetti could not come, I'm sorry, because it was Honourable Ciocchetti the person I contacted to organize the Conference the acts of which we are today presenting. The Conference took place in Rome, in the Hall of Globe of Montecitorio.

However, the Honorable sent us two lines that now I am going to read.

So the program will be slightly different: instead of the intervention of Luciano Ciocchetti, which simply sends us his greetings, I will do a report which I hastened to write yesterday and this morning, so as to illustrate what the aims of FOB are and all the rest.

Then of course there will be the intervention of professor Fabrizio d'Agostini, a great jurist, of professor Luigi Berzano who’s sitting here in the audience. Professor Berzano is one of the leading experts in history of religions, in issues related to the sociology of religions in Italy; he comes from Turin. finally, there will be the speech of Dr. Nelly Ippolito Macrina who has been the co-author of the Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy; she has taken a great interest in the issue of faiths, but she has also been a senior executive of the Religious Affairs Office of the Ministry of Interior, indeed the office dealing with faiths and religious recognition and, as such, the most qualified person at a cultural level to talk to us about freedom or religion and belief.

[Sorry – I thought I had turned it on to talk to you on and yet I had not, it happens. Prof Silvio Calzolari speaks to a person about the microphone].

Of course, each speech will last about twenty minutes, hence you will have to tolerate me again later on.

I now wanted to read you the two lines that Honourable Luciano Ciocchetti sent to us, so I read them as he wrote them.

"I think that the presentation of this book is a relevant fact that really fits into the debate always open and never solved about religious freedoms in the world and in Italy.

Silvio Calzolari [that’s me] had the courage to address this matter involving various personalities who, by participating in the conference held at the Chamber of Deputies on December 21, 2015, have made it possible to open a 360 degrees comparison on what secularism and freedom of belief in Italy should become more and more: a commitment to the growth of our society and a fruitful aid that overcomes the huge religious divisions of the world.

How many wars and atrocities in the world are perpetrated in the name of religion? Italy, the cradle of Christianity, must become the ecumenical example of religious freedom and a mark of peace and brotherhood as well.

I take this opportunity to greet the participants to the presentation of the conference acts and I confirm to Professor Silvio Calzolari my support for its initiatives.

Luciano Ciocchetti”

I thank the Honourable for his participation (although just through a best wishes message for our work) and for his help.

Before giving the floor to President Eugenio Giani, I wanted to say than like never before in recent years, everything seems to be creaking. If you look around, this is what it seems. Even the last American attack on Syria may be a signal: we are living a situation of great crisis of our world, it is a geopolitical one involving or seemingly involving Powers and which seems to put the peace we have been enjoying for over sixty years in Europe, in question. I am referring to our Europe, because in the rest of the world wars never stopped.

But it also seems that the whole cultural world, the world we know, the world of principles, the world of values, is creaking: it seems that the very foundations of civil society in Europe are coming down. See the Brexit, the output of England, the problem of immigrants, the walls which are being built right and left.

I therefore believe that initiatives like this one, aimed at enhancing dialogue, contacts, relationships, knowledge and freedoms in the name of the great principles of human rights, which are universal, although each one may slightly change them based on culture and sensitivity (but which are founding principles) are key to guarantee the peace also for the generations to come.

And this is the purpose of FOB. That to teach, or at least, to give precise indications about these values ​​and we are honored, I am honored, to be its Secretary.

Now, I leave the floor to President Eugenio Giani for a greeting and then I also wanted two words from the Honorable .. the Senator and friend Riccardo Migliori and then the conference will start.

Thank you.