THE RIGHT TO PEACE

Having just visited the Italian city of Rovereto, I was left with a very strong impression of the horrors of war and a community’s desire to never forget those horrors and a people’s desire for a right to peace.

To suggest that there should be such a right as in the right to clean water, sanitation facilities, a good education or the right to sustenance seems preposterous, that is, until you spend some time in Rovereto visiting their war museum filled with the photographs of the battles and the implements used during The Great War (aka World War 1). Walking from room to room filled with the munitions and their deadly artillery pieces is like a blow delivered over and over again.

The real blows of war left 650,000 Italian men in arms dead and another 1.5 million wounded, the area around Rovereto and its larger sister city Trento experiencing some of the fiercest and most difficult fighting of the entire war. The war museum, located in The Rovereto Castle, consists of a series of rooms, each filled with implements demonstrating man’s ingenuity and technical prowess in the arts of killing. Row after row of artillery pieces were exhibited along with the cartridges, some as large as a man, that could be hurled miles and miles towards the opposing sides armies.

The consequences of the war for the area’s inhabitants were so traumatic that an upwelling of emotion and dedication contributed to the creation of a bell of such magnitude that it dominates the hearts and minds of all those that see and experience its majestic sounds when rung. During the year 1924, bronze cannons used by the nineteen nations that participated in World War 1 were melted down and recast into a bell for peace. It was melted and recast in 1939 to obtain a better sound and then, in the 1960’s was recast a final time to correct a crack that appeared in 1960 which had prevented it from being rung.

Each day around sunset, the bell which is the centerpiece of an area dedicated to peace for all mankind, is rung 100 times to remind the listeners of the many soldiers injured or killed, no matter which side, in the many wars that have been fought throughout the ages and the hope for a future in which peace should be a right and not just an interregnum between wars.

And so I return to the aspirational idea that we all have a right to peace or, as my wife Meili felt upon viewing the horrors of The Great War, everyone killed or injured was not just a statistic, they were someone’s son. The bell reminds us that all deaths due to war are a tragedy and that we should strive as best we can to attain peace for all mankind.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne

Michael Pinto, Ph.D. July 2015

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