By Daniela Loffreda
Over ten thousand people joined together on Easter Sunday April 25, 2011 to pay homage to Vittorio Arrigoni in his home town of Buciago, Italy. The bittersweet moments were celebrated first in a religious ceremony by the Archbishop of Jerusalem Hilarion Capucci and then it was followed by a lay ceremony by fellow humanitarians, activists, associations, friends and one of the most tenacious women I have ever seen, Egidia Beretta, Vittorio’s mother. Music and poems were the backdrop to unity, pride and solidarity. Humanity radiated everywhere. Just like Vittorio would have wanted.
We flew in from Italy, Spain, Ireland, Germany, The UK, France and Palestine, drove in and even cycled in to celebrate the life of a man whose biblical presence has fated us to our consciousness and to our divine calls for a better world. His signature closing statement, “Restiamo Umani” “Stay Human” took shape as flags, skin color and religion disappeared and manifested into a white dove flying through the immense space and prodigiousness of what Vittorio was, is and will continue to be. A gift and lesson to our imperfect race. This beautiful, generous, intelligent, compassionate and irreplaceable human being has breathed animating force into our deepest chasms. Yesterday, the assassins were proven to have lost. Vittorio lives on. He is immortal. Right in front of our very eyes ten thousand Vittorio Arrigonis were born.
Vittorio was my friend and it is only now that I have the stamina to write down a few words to exalt this exceptional human being whom I had the honor of getting to know.
Vittorio accepted that at any moment his life could end and he even described to me once that it would probably be a homicide or tragedy.
He never went into detail but he knew that his destiny was bigger than him and he was courageously ready for it and in some ways, almost waiting for it. In an email to me, he once talked about his death. We argued, or rather, I argued about this fact, as I couldn’t bear the idea of Vittorio passing and so like any average person, I begged him not to even utter those words. And so he wrote:
“Habibti don’t get upset, it’s only the pure and holy truth, and I repeat it to myself like a mantra every time there is the tangible risk that I may die. Yalla, Do you know that before Rachel’s (Corrie) death many people in the USA didn’t even know what Gaza was? And if the siege has loosened minimally and has given hope to hundreds of Palestinians who were ill and seeking medical attention, it is only and exclusively for the simple reason that there were 9 martyrs on the Mavi Marmara.
“Obvioulsy I would bring back Rachel and all of those lives, but the truth is that their lives were not sacrificed in vain. On the contrary, it actually supported Palestine and its resistance. It will be the same for me”. — Yours Vittorio
These words prove the valor and fortitude of this heroic man, a force to be reckoned with. Despite death threats and danger, Vittorio continued to fight for human rights for the Palestinian people knowing how high the stakes were. His ideals surpassed any mortal fears. In the words of Nelson Mandela “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up” and Vittorio never gave up.
The Italian media has tried to corrupt his name. Italian institutions didn’t have the dignity to receive his body at Fiumicino airport or be present at his funeral. Nor did the Catholic church allow Vittorio’s funeral to be held at The Duomo of Milano despite the requests from citizens, family members and even respected men of the church. The hypocrisy of our leaders and of the dead Italian left speak for itself and speak loud and clear. We know that they are all afraid to vocalize the truth. Silence is louder than words.
In lieu of all this swamp of cowards, stands Vittorio’s testimony which exhibits life. The legacy of his words will continue to be sung like a song of love to all people and by all people. Jews, Muslims, Cristians, Atheists…. Vittorio had no boundaries, no flags and no barriers. We are all Vittorio Arrigoni and we must not forget why Vittorio was doing what he was doing. There is a siege in Gaza, there is an occupation, there is an illegal wall. Vittorio provided a voice to the voiceless. Farmers, fisherman, mothers, daughters, children, innocent victims of a brutal and harsh reality that Vittorio was able to bring to the world. His book Stay Human, the only authentic account of what happened under Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 – January 2009, should be read by everyone, so that all can know what Vittorio witnessed and what the world ignored.
A very touching moment occurred as I listened to the speeches during the funeral. I offered a piece of gum to a lovely woman sitting next to me. I asked her if she was Palestinian. And she said “No, I am Jewish” and I said “Oh well that’s wonderful, Thank you for coming” And she replied “ We are all brothers and sisters” and I said. “Yes, yes, we are.”
This is the spirit of Vittorio Arrigoni which will beat in all of our hearts. This is the spirit which has been resurrected. Goodbye for now my friend.
Vittorio….you have been victorious. Restiamo Umani. Stay Human.
– Daniela Loffreda contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.