We continue to learn more of the history and context of this unique corner of Italy.
During a tour of some potential venues for ministry, we met Pedro, a Portugese man who works with the Salvation Army in Torre Pellice, ministering to the marginalized immigrant populations. While touring the complex where he hoped we could do some murals, including an outdoor garden and terrace where he envisioned performances and exhibits, Pedro regaled us with the history of the valley (in very good English). We listened and learned about certain customs that endure to this day because of the Waldensian persecution. For example: no child can leave a school with an adult other than a parent without a signed authorization, because hundreds of years ago, priests came from Torino and kidnapped Waldensian children to raise them as Catholics.
We learned that, because of the Waldensian presence, Italians in this corner of Italy are far less skeptical of non-Catholics than in other regions of Italy, where to not be Catholic means you belong to a sect.
Homes in the valley here are sacred, and one is not easily invited in, for once they were the clandestine houses of worship, and the Waldensians were always on guard against spies.
How familiar is this scenario?! On both sides of the religious fence, there is mistrust, and one wonders what it would take to tear the fence down. Last Sunday, I took some of our heroes to the Waldensian Church in town here. It was a delight to discover we had come on their once-a-month French Service. As I spoke with the pastor and his wife, the welcome was cordial but distant, and I read that mistrust in their eyes. Will that change as the weeks go by?
We have already begun to explore the themes of Artist as Reconciler (reconciling the artist with himself, with others, and in communities and cultures), and will plunge in more with the arrival of our next guest lecturer. We want our students to be heroes in all aspects of reconciliation. What will inspire them, and how can we become agents of reconciliation here? Is it even our place? These are the discussions going on, and we'll see how God leads, for....
"God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation...now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as through God were pleading through us...be reconciled to God."--2 Cor. 5:18,20