by Katherine Marshall
from the Huffington Post
The following interview is part of a series of conversations with activists working for development and peace, who draw their inspiration and often direction from their faith. This series, which also included an interview with Ruth Messinger of AJWS, is based on interviews led by Katherine Marshall, as part of policy explorations for the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University and the World Faiths Development Dialogue. The full interviews are here.
You serve as Director for International Affairs for the Community of Sant’Egidio. How did you first become involved with the Community ?
In 1973, I was a 15-year-old high school student, newly arrived in Rome from Brussels, where my father had worked. A small student group at my school invited me to join them in service in an outlying, very poor district. As a newcomer, I was happy to find friends but enjoyed even more the work we did. The children of the new, often illiterate immigrants faced many obstacles and we were able to help them in different ways. I became part of the student community and enjoyed that life. We prayed together each day before setting out for our work. We had long, intense discussions about how to live the Gospel, and how to bring about change. We were convinced that even young people and students could make a difference.
Then, while I was at university and afterwards, I worked with what we had come to call the Community, still in Rome’s poor areas, focusing then on adolescents and young adults. I became what you in the United States might call a community organizer.