e-mail us
Many fast, pray as G-8 summit meets

Blood in the streets during the G-8 summit seems assured, leaving advocates of non-violent protest -- by all accounts the majority of those who will descend on Genoa -- with the challenge of figuring out how to bear witness without becoming part of the urban warfare.

The ingredients for trouble are clearly present. The so-called “all whites,” Italian radicals who dress in white padding and helmets for confrontations with riot police, have vowed to carry their protests inside an off-limits zone around the meeting site. It is the same group that led rioting near the Vatican on Dec. 16 triggered by the visit of Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider.

The Italian government, meanwhile, has deployed 1,000 soldiers to join the 18,000-20,000 regular police already assigned to beat back the attempt.

In order to keep well distant from the battle lines, the largest protest by Catholic religious communities will take place at Genoa’s Church of St. Anthony at Boccadasse, well outside the downtown “red zone.”

There, from 9 a.m. July 20, to 6 p.m. July 21, some 2,000 religious and lay Catholics will fast and pray to express opposition to the injustices generated by globalization.

Prayer services will be offered in two-hour blocks, organized by groups such as the Taizé community, the London-based Catholic social service agency CAFOD, and the peace and justice promoters of men’s and women’s religious orders. CAFOD alone is planning to bring a delegation of some 500 people.

School Sister of Notre Dame Cathy Arata, one of the organizers, told NCR that the purpose of the fast is three-fold. “We want to confront the injustices in our own lives, to express solidarity with people who are hungry, and to engage in non-violent protest against the unjust economic policies of the G-8, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,” she said July 9 in Rome.

In addition, Arata said, a coalition formed by 75 religious congregations to advocate debt cancellation is calling on people around the world to join the prayer and fasting from their homes. People from as far away as the Philippines have indicated they plan to do so, she said.

Participants in the July 20 and 21 prayer and fasting at Genoa are planning to arrive by train and bus, Arata said. That may prove difficult, since police plan to shut down the airport as well as virtually all of the train routes and highways into and out of Genoa during the days of the G-8 meeting. If some participants can’t make it, Arata said, they will organize satellite events wherever they are stalled.

-- John L. Allen Jr.

National Catholic Reporter, July 27, 2001