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Don Ciotti: the Gospel against the mafias

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Don Ciotti: the Gospel against the mafias

The founder of Libera, who will be at the PIME in Milan for an event dedicated to Don Giuseppe Diana, talks about the new faces of organized crime and the educational challenges to combat indifference. Starting with the Gospel

An increasingly global mafia, the need for education in civil responsibilities, the link between crime and lack of development, at every latitude. And then the Gospel, a beacon to illuminate the commitment in all these challenges. The reflections of Don Luigi Ciotti, known for being the founder of the Libera anti-mafia network (in 1995), but who in his 78 years of life has spent himself, and we still spend money, even for children in prison, for young victims of addiction, for development in the poorest countries. Don Ciotti, who on March 13th will speak at the PIME Center in Milan for an event dedicated to Don Giuseppe Diana, killed 30 years ago in Casal di Principe for his fight against the Camorra, in 1966 gave birth to a reality of youth commitment that would became the Abele Group, based in Turin and today active on the most critical fronts of society, from poverty to human trafficking.
Don Luigi, what is the new face of organized crime?
«We can describe it with three words: entrepreneurial, technological, transnational. The new bosses are managers active in the financial markets, capable of recruiting high-level professionals and influencing the legal economy, for example in the large works sector, exploiting the mechanisms of subcontracting and post-Covid benefits. They move on the web to control the cybercrimeprofitable and low risk also thanks to cryptocurrencies, a tool of exchange without intermediaries that lends itself to scams, trade in illegal goods and services, laundering of illicit profits”.
Are these “global” mafias less violent than in the past?
«In reality, if they appear less bloody here, elsewhere they hold entire countries in check with a violence that governments are unable to stem, or even exploit for power purposes. The victims are also indirect, linked to the three main global traffickings: that of weapons, which aggravates the toll of human lives lost in conflicts; drug trafficking, with its trail of deaths caused by drug abuse; human trafficking, which exploits the desperation of those fleeing poverty, wars and environmental disasters. This global dimension of crime requires an equally global commitment. Not only at the level of repression, with the cooperation between magistrates and police forces of the various countries. But also through civil mobilization. This is precisely what we try to stimulate as Libera, with the birth of three international networks in Latin America, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.”
The contradictions linked to the migrant reception system produce exploitation and recruitment into criminal circuits: is it possible to break this chain?
«Beyond possible, it would be necessary! But many people focus on immigration rather than real politics. It is convenient to blame migrants for many situations of crime and degradation of which they themselves are sometimes the first victims. Because if you place a thousand bureaucratic obstacles to the integration of foreign people who are already in our country, those people will be pushed to the margins, without the possibility of studying, working or renting a house legally, and will often give in to the blackmail of those offering illegal work, housing dilapidated or a place in the low criminal workforce. Breaking the chain would mean first of all rethinking the rules on immigration, not only Italian but European, and understanding that only a well-organised welcome, respectful of people’s rights and aspirations, will make those arriving a good citizen and not a desperate man ready to do anything to survive.”
What tracks should the fight against mafias take and what is the role of citizens?
«Giovanni Falcone already said that the fight against the mafias had to take a leap forward “no longer relying on the extraordinary commitment of a few but with the ordinary commitment of everyone”. Which doesn’t mean turning every citizen into a policeman. Everyone has his own responsibilities. Magistrates and police forces are called to investigate and repress. Politics must make laws that hinder crime at every level, without being embarrassed to also condemn the complicity of many circles of power. Ordinary citizens can become sentinels of legality: denouncing injustices and all those situations that threaten people’s dignity and freedom. And then by educating, monitoring public decisions, promoting respect for the rules, from roads to taxes, from businesses to rents. A new awareness is needed to reduce the space for action of the mafias, who take advantage of the indifference of many, of the tendency to say “what can I do?””.
How is it possible to raise young generations sensitive to the issues of legality and civil responsibility?
«Young people educate themselves through example, taking steps along the right paths together. It’s not enough to fill your mouth with words like legality or morality, which remain abstract concepts until you see them filled with life, with experience. With Libera we focus a lot on experience. Hearing from the voices of the families of the innocent victims of the mafia the story of endless pain touches the conscience much more than a generic speech against criminal ferocity. Seeing the commitment of those who cultivate the lands confiscated from the bosses demonstrates how good can be drawn from evil: a common good, which enriches the territories, as opposed to the illicit assets of those who have long plundered those territories. And then again the garrisons in the cities and neighborhoods, looking for solutions to the more specific problems that concern them; or civic monitoring schools, to check that public resources are well spent; or the summer training camps that attract thousands of young people. There are many possible proposals, but they must always have this background of concreteness, of connection between what is studied and what is done.”
Does the Church have a responsibility in this educational work?
«Pope Francis is the first supporter of this commitment. A couple of years ago, on the occasion of the presentation of a project against the mafias in his native Argentina, he wrote to us: “Organized crime produces social damage on a large scale and implies, for society as a whole, assuming and reversing the mechanisms – often rooted in the collective unconscious – which produce its proliferation”. Educating young people precisely means acting on the collective unconscious, that is, on that mafia mentality, if not mafia in the strict sense, which puts the “self” first and fuels selfishness, arrogance, indifference for others. All attitudes functional to the crime and in very clear contrast with the Gospel. “Love one another as I have loved you”: Jesus’ commandment already contains everything needed to talk about justice.”
Like the missionaries, the Abele Group also operates in poor countries, particularly in Ivory Coast: what is the link between social promotion and the fight against corruption, an obstacle to development?
«Let’s start by saying that many so-called “poor” countries are actually very rich. Of natural resources, of human potential, of cultural heritage. But all these resources are poorly exploited. And, from an economic point of view, very badly distributed, with inequalities even more accentuated than in the West. The corrupt powers have a great responsibility: powers colluding with crime but also with the interests of large multinationals, which – various investigations have shown – have no scruples in resorting to illegality to favor their business. Doing social promotion therefore does not only mean supporting development projects, but also acting on a cultural level to unmask these contradictions and give people the tools to counteract the abuses of power that slow down progress. It is no coincidence that in Côte d’Ivoire, next to the structures for training young people, we have opened a study center which has become a hub for many realities and people interested in making an impact on Ivorian society, and not just in treating the “symptoms “of his discomfort.”
Broadening our gaze from illegality to the theme of justice: how do you feel about commenting on what is happening in Gaza?
«It’s difficult to say anything. Faced with the images and testimonies that come from that tormented land, one risks remaining speechless with dismay, disbelief and horror. Yet we must have the courage to say a few words. First of all by underlining that it is a violence born of violence. The Israeli families who lost loved ones in the Hamas terrorist attack, like those who still know they are hostages, deserve truth and justice. But this justice cannot come from weapons, from the massacre of thousands of defenseless men, women and children, from the cynicism with which they are left to die of hunger, or to die in hospitals with no more tools to treat them. This is a crime no less serious than the first. And that he will not achieve his objective: guaranteeing Israel’s security. All the hatred that this latest aggression is sowing will indeed be the main obstacle to a future of peace and security for all. For a Christian, it is painful and inexplicable to see how, precisely in the lands that welcomed the birth, preaching, death and resurrection of the son of God, thousands of children of men have been killing each other, for decades now, without being able to recognize each other brothers and sisters, regardless of origins and beliefs.”

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The Lenten meeting

It is titled “For the Love of My People. Christians and the commitment against the mafia” the event will be held on Wednesday 13 March at the PIME Center in Milan and in which Don Luigi Ciotti will speak together with Don Giorgio Pisano and Conchita Sannino. The meeting opens with a prayer at 6.30 pm in the Martyrs’ Chapel; followed by aperitif dinner and, at 9pm, the conference. The event is among the appointments of Lent PIME 2024: info on centropime.org

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