Italian Catholic priests go to war with Salvini over immigration

Noteworthy:

Gianfranco Formenton, a priest in Italy’s central Umbria region who has long preached against racism and in support of migrants, knows what it is like to clash with Matteo Salvini, the recently installed interior minister and leader of the far-right League party.

In response to the party’s xenophobic rhetoric in 2015 – the year more than a million migrants arrived in Europe and 150,000 landed on Italy’s southern shores – he put a sign up on the door of his church in San Martino di Trignano, a hamlet of the town of Spoleto, saying: “Racists are forbidden from entering. Go home!”

He immediately bore the wrath of Salvini, who wrote on Twitter: “Perhaps the priest prefers smugglers, slaveholders and terrorists? Pity Spoleto and this church if this man [calls himself] a priest.”

Fr Formenton is also believed to have been the target of intimidation by far-right sympathisers when his rectory and home were ransacked a few days after Luca Traini, a failed League candidate in a local ballot, injured six Africans in a shooting in the town of Macerata in early February.

As the Democratic party, the biggest left-wing force in Italy, appears cowed in the face of Salvini’s vitriolic immigration stance, fearing it will lose support, the interior minister’s strongest opponents are priests such as Formenton.

But they are struggling to convince parishioners to welcome migrants, amid mounting adulation of Salvini, a Catholic who reportedly attends mass.

“We have a population that wants blessings from the church, processions and religious rites, but every time Pope Francis recalls migrants or the poor, they no longer listen,” Formenton told the Guardian.

“There is an evil force of racism, and Salvini has contributed to this. He’s been a magician in cultivating hate and manipulating anger. People of all ages have become racist because of the climate we’re living in.”

Knowing that many of his backers are devout Catholics, Salvini has exploited religion to galvanise support. The 45-year-old once again brandished a rosary and swore on the gospel to be “loyal to his people” while addressing thousands of ecstatic voters at the League’s annual rally in Pontida, a town in the northern Lombardy region, last Sunday. His speech, during which he pledged to create a European-wide alliance against “mass immigration”, came a few days after Mario Delpini, the Archbishop of Milan, pleaded for more humanity among Christians.

“Can they go to mass each Sunday and ignore the drama that is happening in front of their eyes?” said Delpini.

In the few days since Salvini’s speech, more than 200 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean.

Pope Francis also spoke out after Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, blocked the Aquarius, a rescue ship with more than 600 people on board, from docking in Italy in June. “I encourage those who bring them aid and hope that the international community will act in a united and efficient fashion to prevent the causes of forced migration,” the pontiff said.

At the same time, Salvini has been nurturing a relationship with US Cardinal Richard Burke, a fierce critic of Pope Francis and supporter of Donald Trump, as he strives to build consensus from within the church.

Cosimo Scordato, a priest at Saint Francesco church in Ballarò, a neighbourhood of Palermo and home to many migrants recently arrived in Sicily, compared Salvini’s use of religious imagery to that deployed by Mafia bosses.

“Holding a rosary in front of thousands of supporters reminds me of Mafia bosses holding the Bible,” Fr Scordato, who has been subjected to intimidation by the Mafia, told the Guardian.

“Mobsters believe themselves to be sort-of spokesmen of Christian values, they feel protected by the church and want to show people they have God on their side.”

Scordato said he recently wrote a letter to Salvini encouraging him to see migrants as an opportunity in a country with a low birth rate and ageing population. He got no reply.

Fr Enzo Volpe, a Salesian priest in Palermo, said Christians have “forgotten about the Good Samaritan, who healed and took care of the poor”.

“Young Italians are moving to the US and England in search of work and opportunities,” he added. “What if these countries had stopped Italians at the border like Italy is doing with Africans? What’s the difference? Is it because Africans are black?”

Fr Luigi Ciotti, one of the most popular priests in Italy, organised a protest this weekend, which invites people to wear a red T-shirt – the same colour worn by three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi when his drowned body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015.

“Red also means to stop,” he said. “And we need to stop now, stop and reflect and look inside ourselves. We need to question our hearts and conscience: what are we becoming?”

Earlier this week Fr Alex Zanotelli, a member of the Comboni missionaries in Verona, urged journalists to report on the tragedies in Africa and raise more awareness among Italians about the plight of migrants, who are now perceived by many as “parasites” and “invaders”.

“If Italians don’t know what’s going on in Africa, they cannot understand why so many people are fleeing their lands and risking their lives,” he said.

But with the Democratic party failing to voice a strong opposition, the onus rests on the priests to wrestle against Salvini.

“The party is divided and doesn’t know how to counteract Salvini, and on which issues,” said Mattia Diletti, a politics professor at Sapienza University in Rome. “Due to people being so connected to him and the immigration issue, there is a fear that [opposing him] could be damaging.”

Source: Italian Catholic priests go to war with Salvini over immigration

Italy’s first black senator: my election shows far right is not anti-immigration – The Guardian

Ethnicity doesn’t necessary determine attitudes and perspectives. All groups have political diversity. But given the almost virulent anti-immigration messaging of the league, still surprising:

Italy’s first black senator has said his election for the League has proved that the far-right party, whose anti-immigrant rhetoric helped it to its best ever result on Sunday, has no problem with legal migration.

Campaigning under the party slogan “stop the invasion”, Toni Iwobi, a 62-year-old businessman originally from Nigeria, won his seat in Spirano, a small town in the Lombardy province of Bergamo, as the party took almost 18% of the vote nationwide.

“It’s an incredible honour for me to be Italy’s first black senator,” he told the Guardian.

He shared success in the region with his party colleague Attilio Fontana, the new governor of Lombardy, who at the start of the election campaign said Italy’s migrant influx threatened to wipe out “our white race”.

Iwobi, who owns an IT company, came to Italy in the late 1970s to study in Perugia. He later moved to Spirano, where he said he found the two loves of his life: his Italian wife and the League, then known as the Northern League. He became a councillor for the party in 1995.

Iwobi, a Catholic, argues that people should travel to Italy legally, just like he did. “I came on a student visa,” he said. “During that period over 40 years ago, coming here meant needing a visa. My party is fighting to restore legal immigration.”

The League was the strongest force within a three-party rightwing coalition that won most of the votes in the elections but fell short of the 40% majority required to govern. Horse-trading between parties is now under way to come up with a coalition government.

Iwobi has played an instrumental role in driving the League’s success, having helped to create some of the party’s key policies since being appointed by its leader, Matteo Salvini, as head of its immigration and security committee in 2015.

Party goals include making it easier to deport migrants deemed to be in the country illegally, refusing to accept those without documents arriving on charity rescue ships, and developing EU-wide economic aid projects with countries of origin to stop people coming.

“Salvini appointing me as the head of immigration shows that he knows exactly what he is doing,” he said.

Like Salvini, who has called for a “mass cleaning” to rid Italy of people in the country illegally, Iwobi takes aim at the 600,000 people who have landed on its southern shores within the last four years. The highest number of asylum requests in Italy come from Nigerians.

“Anybody running away from a country because of conflict and war has to be hosted,” said Iwobi. “But anybody leaving their country for the wrong reason and travelling to others in the wrong way has to be stopped. Immigration shouldn’t cost thousands of lives at sea and neither should it cost a cent to the host country,” he said.

“I want to stress that the League isn’t against immigration as such – nobody in this world can stop people moving, it’s in the human DNA. But we are against illegal immigration.”

Iwobi’s views contradict those of Cécile Kyenge, who became Italy’s first black minister in the chamber of deputies, the lower house of parliament, in 2013 and later served as integration minister in Enrico Letta’s government.

Kyenge suffered high-profile racist attacks during the brief tenure, including having bananas thrown at her and being likened to an orangutan by a League senator, Roberto Calderoli. Iwobi criticised her policies on migrant reception, saying at the time that “we should help them at home”. He also opposed a law drafted by Kyenge that would have granted an earlier path to citizenship for children born in Italy to foreign parents.

But he insisted the party was not racist and urged foreigners worried about the recent spate of racist attacks to “stay calm”.

“Our policies are intended to bring peace and order to the nation,” he said.

via Italy’s first black senator: my election shows far right is not anti-immigration | World news | The Guardian

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The race for these seats in Italy’s parliament is likely to run through Toronto

Never been convinced of the merits of overseas constituencies as it raises issues of dual loyalties:

Mario Cortellucci is a real estate magnate in Vaughan, Ont., part the Italian cultural centre north of Toronto. He makes prosciutto and raw milk cheese and owns so many Norval Morrisseau originals he’s considering opening a museum dedicated to the late Indigenous artist. In his office, three of the paintings are on the floor, propped up against a wall among other hallmarks of a seemingly full life: a model of a suburb he’s been working to build for decades, photos of his children. But Mario Cortellucci is now, at 68, embarking on a second act. He, along with several other Italian-Canadians, is campaigning to enter the turbulent world of Italian politics in Rome.

Italy’s election next month will include races around the world, since Italy’s parliament has seats for politicians representing the diaspora in North America-Central America, Europe, South America and Asia-Africa-Oceania. Italian citizens living in the North and Central America region elect two members of the chamber of deputies (the lower house) and one for the senate. And while the number may seem insignificant among nearly 1,000 seats in both houses, tight elections in the past have seen some in Italy question why ex-pats in far-flung parts of the word should have any influence, said Western University political scientist Pietro Pirani.

A good amount of that influence comes from Canada, he said, particularly in Toronto. Canadian residents make up a quarter of the more than 400,000 constituents in the North American riding. Not everyone votes, however. And Toronto’s heavily-organized Italian community means local candidates have a better shot.

“If you want to be elected in North America, you have to come from Toronto,” Pirani said. “The largest and most organized community in North America is from Toronto.”

Not always, however. The outgoing senator is from Chicago. And the preceding one, Basilio Giordano, was from Montreal. Among the Canadians running for spots this year, there’s a sense that past politicians from the region were more concerned with the prestige and pomp than actually assisting Italians abroad.

“Just warm up the seat and they don’t do much,” Toronto-born senate candidate Tony D’Aversa said. “This isn’t about status, this is about doing your job.”

“A lot of them went to beautiful Rome and forgot about the people,” Cortellucci, a senate candidate with Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, said on Wednesday. Cortellucci says he doesn’t need the salary – he’s donating it if he wins. Instead, he said, he’s running because he was asked at Italian community functions and feels an obligation to the Italian immigrants who he’s worked with through his over 50-year career in Canada.

But his affiliation with Berlusconi’s coalition somewhat muddles the message, since the group has seen much criticism for having staunchly anti-immigrant factions. For his part, Cortellucci says he’s more concerned with the politics of Italians in North and Central America. Plus, his campaign manager Giacomo Parisi said, “He comes from an immigration family.”

“Mr. Cortellucci is a strong believer in immigration.”

Italian-born parliamentarians are skeptical of their ex-pat colleagues.

Italian candidates abroad often are only nominally affiliated with their party, Pirani said, though it’s unavoidable that voters will usually be more familiar with party brand than the name.

“Their role is mostly narrowed to the ways they can improve the lives of Italians abroad,” he said.

Toronto-born Francesca La Marca, with Italy’s Democratic party, has served as one of two North American representatives in the chamber of deputies since 2013. She’s running again in the March election and fully denies the idea that the five-year term was nothing more than a pleasant Roman sojourn. She said she encountered suspicion and scepticism from her Italian-born colleagues and even some of her younger constituents who emigrated more recently from Italy.

It took spending 70 percent of her time in Rome rather than North America, showing up to votes and introducing a bill to earn respect, she said, to the point that colleagues in the lower house began to consider her as the “Canadian ambassador” – turning their heads in her direction whenever debate landed on Canada, or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It would be easy to say you get a nice fat paycheque and you’re always travelling around,” she said. But in reality she has to pay out of pocket for hotels and meals on trips around her riding, spanning from Panama to Canada.

“Again,” she said, “I’m not complaining.”

Source: The race for these seats in Italy’s parliament is likely to run through Toronto

Pope gets political in Italy’s debate on citizenship for immigrants

Not totally surprising:

While in the United States, the concept that the Vatican might influence public policy is outrageous, in Italy, the relationship between politics and the Catholic Church is like a well-made cappuccino: The espresso and milk foam may seem separated at first, but once you drink it, they blend into one.

Popes theoretically handed in their temporal power almost 150 years ago, but their voice and opinions still hold considerable weight in public discourse, which, in Italy as well as in many parts of the world these days, is centered around the immigrant crisis.

In the past, Pope Francis has been hesitant, if not downright opposed, to using his hefty popularity to intervene directly in matters of Italian public policy. But while the pope remained quiet as Italy’s parliament passed a law on de facto-couples, which critics say opened the road towards gay marriage, he was vocal on a recently proposed law concerning citizenship to the children of long-term immigrants.

The legislation is based on the concept of ius soli, which establishes citizenship depending on where you are born and not ius sanguinis, requiring a blood lineage, and would offer citizenship to the children of immigrants born in Italy who have completed at least five years in the Italian school system.

Under Italy’s current ius sanguinis system, it’s difficult and somewhat rare for the children of immigrants to the country to acquire citizenship. Under a ius soli standard, it would become much easier.

The country’s senate is currently at a standstill on the law, with opposing parties entrenched in a battle where no political blows are spared.

At the weekly general audience Sep. 27, Francis extended his arms wide toward St. Peter’s square and called faithful to welcome migrants and refugees.

“Just like this,” the pope said, “arms wide open, ready for a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace.” He then praised the work done by the civil organizations involved in collecting signatures in order to push the ius soli legislation forward.

This wasn’t the first, nor most adamant time the pope publicly expressed his support for the legislation, causing distress and outrage on the part of those who strongly oppose it. Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist right-wing party Northern League tweeted that if the pope “wishes to apply the law in his State, the Vatican, he can go ahead. But as a Catholic, I don’t believe Italy can welcome and sustain the entire world. To God what is of God and to Caesar what is of Caesar. Amen,” to which he added his staple hashtag ‘stoptheinvasion.’

The pope had used the same quote from the Gospel in an interview with sociologist Dominique Wolton, where he stressed how “the lay state is a healthy thing,” but Francis’s recent statements on the ius soli show that when the topic is close to his heart, he is not willing to back down.

…A chorus of priests, bishops and cardinals joined in their support of the ius soli legislation, with Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Bishop’s Conference (CEI), saying that if a way was found to accelerate things with regards to the rights of same-sex couples, “the same attention should be given to the rights of Italians left without citizenship.”

“The Vatican doesn’t vote,” the bishop clarified, “but the Church is bound to call out the heart of the matter.”

On Sep. 25 the president of CEI, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, also joined the ranks in favor of the controversial law, adding that while welcoming immigrants is an important first step, “there is another responsibility, promulgated over time, that has to be tackled with prudence, intelligence and realism.”

Many reporters spotted a difference of expression between Francis’s “open arms” approach and CEI’s call to caution, but Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, quickly shot them down.

“You can welcome people with open arms, but also with prudence,” Parolin told reporters Sep. 27, before taking part in Rome’s Lateran University’s conference sponsored by the pontifical organization Aid to the Church in Need on the situation facing Christians in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains area.

“The fundamental thing is welcome, because they are our brothers and sisters,” Parolin said. The prelate said that in the context of this “very intense Italian political debate,” it’s best if the Vatican sticks with “recalling principles.”

“What’s important is that these people not just be welcome but integrated, so that they can be inserted in a positive way into the fabric of our society,” Parolin said.

Source: Pope gets political in Italy’s debate on citizenship for immigrants

Roma Culture 101: Opening Minds With Song, Talk and Laughter – The New York Times

Good initiative:

For one week in August, a group of students in Lanciano, a hilltop town near the Adriatic Sea, sang songs, played music, danced, ate and went on field trips.

But this was no ordinary summer camp. This was the second annual Roma Summer School, a full immersion in Romani culture.

And so the roughly dozen participants — including “gadji,” or women of non-Roma origin — learned basic expressions in Romanés, the Romani language spoken in Abruzzo; gobbled up Roma cuisine; and were invited into Romani homes.

And they graduated with a better understanding, and appreciation, of the Roma and their struggles, returning home with a message of appreciation and integration.

At least that was the organizers’ intent.

“Only by sharing, understanding, drinking, eating and being welcomed by Roma families do you begin to have encounters on an equal footing,” explained Santino Spinelli, the ebullient director of the school. “That’s how you overcome the negative stereotypes and the widely held preconceptions and prejudices against Roma.”

Mr. Spinelli is arguably Italy’s best-known Roma personality, or at least the most famous Italian who admits to being a member of an often vilified group.

On stages elsewhere, he goes by the name Alexian, the accordion-playing leader of a Roma musical group that, he proudly says, has “played for three popes.”

As a musician, he has helped promote Roma culture, but he has also wanted to find a way to dispel persistent anti-Roma prejudice.

Last spring, Mr. Spinelli was at the seaside in San Vito Marina, taking a stroll after lunch, and the idea came to him: Why not have an intercultural school where Italians could meet Roma families and see for themselves what the Roma were really about?

“I am trying to get people to know the unknown side of the Roma, the families that are integrated, the Roma who work, who are honest, who have lived here for centuries but continue to preserve their culture,” he said.

The course emphasized Roma culture, but it unavoidably touched on modern social issues and preconceptions — like the notion that Roma are a nomadic people who feel at home living in filthy insalubrious camps.

Nothing could be further from the truth, he said.

“Roma have been living in houses in Abruzzo since the 14th century,” said Mr. Spinelli, who owns a lushly decorated villa just outside Lanciano that he shares with his aging parents, his children and his wife, Daniela De Rentiis, who coordinated the logistics of the school (and cooked tirelessly).

Camps do exist, but the Roma who live there are merely the latest wave of Romani refugees escaping persecution and war in their countries of origin, he said.

“The Roma’s presumed vocation to nomadism has been the result of repression and persecution throughout Europe,” he said. “Running away is not a choice; it’s called forced mobility.”

And the camps that have been created by city governments to house these refugees — mostly from the Balkans — negatively reinforce the myth of a wandering people.

“They’re really an example of racial segregation, a crime against humanity,” Mr. Spinelli said. “As an Italian I am ashamed of this treatment.”

During the week, the students visited museums and a fairground run by Roma, ate with Roma families, and went on outings.

Italy PM says citizenship bill to make Italy safer – Xinhua

Coming to terms with reality:

Granting citizenship to children born in Italy of immigrant parents is the right thing to do and will make Italy safer, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Saturday.

The so-called “ius soli” (“law of the soil” in Latin) bill has become a hot-button issue after last Sunday’s local elections which saw strong gains by the rightwing, anti-immigrant Northern League across Italy.

In remarks at a televised forum organized by La Repubblica newspaper in the northern city of Bologna, the center-left prime minister rebutted opponents of the bill.

The ius soli bill, which is supported by center-left parties and the business sector, would grant citizenship to children born in Italy of foreign parents, and to kids who have spent at least five years in the Italian school system.

Its opponents — the rightwing Northern League party and the euro-skeptic Five Star Movement — claimed it will give potential extremists a legal foothold in Italian society, that it is tantamount to an “ethnic substitution”, and that it is “an unvotable mess”.

“I know a part of parliament and of public opinion looks upon (the ius soli bill) with diffidence,” Gentiloni said. “We musn’t pretend they don’t exist.”

The prime minister explained that citizenship implies rights but also duties, and that is in the interests of the country to include children who are already Italian in everything but their passport, and who will grow into productive members of the society.

“We musn’t allow room for the notion that…we underestimate the significance of our culture and our identity,” Gentiloni said. Granting citizenship to children born in Italy is a sign of strength, not weakness, he added.

The prime minister also replied to those who “agitate the spectre of a threat to our security in a wholly unjustified way”. Counter-terrorism experience teaches that the only way to root out and prevent radicalism is social inclusion, not marginalization and discrimination, Gentiloni said.

“To those who stoke such fears, we must say extending citizenship to these children…is not just a matter of conscience and civil rights, but also one of security,” Gentiloni said.

“The time has come to consider these children as Italian citizens to all effects,” the prime minister said. “We owe it to them, it is the right thing to do, and I hope parliament (approves the bill) very soon, in the coming weeks.”

The ius soli bill was first proposed by an immigrant rights campaign called Italia Sono Anch’Io (I Also Am Italy), which gathered 200,000 signatures on a petition to parliament in 2011-2012.

Supporters of the bill argue that it grants rights to children who are already de facto Italians, boosts Italy’s aging population, and contributes to the national economy by giving them a reason to stay in the country, work, consume and pay taxes.

Source: Italy PM says citizenship bill to make Italy safer – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Italy’s casual racism is out of place in town where migrants are helping economy

Two examples, one bad, one good:

It is an aging country with towns and villages emptying of their young, and a country where racism is never far below the surface. When it explodes, it is often tolerated.

It is also a country with tens of thousands of potential new citizens sitting on its doorstep. With a few exceptions, however, Italy is very reluctant to try to integrate them.

Sulley Muntari has been around. He’s 32 and has played for several top Italian teams as well as teams in Britain. He’s also played for Ghana’s national team 84 times.

He knows how the game is played in Italy, he knows the corrosive power of fans called “ultras” and their penchant for racist abuse. But in early May he snapped. He had appealed to the referee to do something about the unrelenting chants. The referee did nothing. So Muntari left the game.

Sulley Muntari — Italian soccer player

Sulley Muntari of Pescara remonstrates with football fans during a Serie A match April 30 in Cagliari, Italy. (Enrico Locci/Getty)

For this, the Italian soccer federation suspended him for a further game. It said the abuse was minor, coming from a minority of just 10 or 15 fans.

Meanwhile, in the mountains of the south, the town council of Sant’Alessio rents out eight apartments which house 35 migrants — an Iraqi Kurdish family, and people from Nigeria, Mali and Senegal.

The town gets up to 45 euros ($70 Cdn) a day for each migrant from the national government to house, feed and help train them. There are vocational classes and legal and medical aid.

The mission began as humanitarian aid, Mayor Stephano Calabro said. “But there are significant economic benefits, too.”

The subsidies are helping to keep the town’s dying shops and services alive.

Most migrants aren’t so lucky. Over the years, people on the southern island of Lampedusa have worked heroically to rescue and welcome thousands of new arrivals who risked their lives in the sea crossing.

But now at least 170,000 migrants languish in makeshift government camps, waiting for months, even years, while their asylum requests work their way through the slow, tortuous, complicated bureaucratic process.

Source: Italy’s casual racism is out of place in town where migrants are helping economy – World – CBC News

Italy’s ‘Cultural Allowance’ For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism : NPR

Interesting approach.

One of the best initiatives of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship gives every new Canadian a one-year pass that provides free access to over 1,000 cultural and historical sites.:

Few things inspire more loathing in the hearts of high school students than the words “extra homework.” But as Florence Mattei hands out a pamphlet to her homeroom class at the Southlands School in Rome, she tells them they may want to give this assignment a chance.

“Who would like to read what it’s about?” she asks the room full of 18-year-olds.

A senior named Alessio translates from Italian into English: “For the people born in 1998 there is a 500-euro bonus that you can spend on cultural things, such as going to the cinema, visiting museums and this kind of stuff.”

He stares at the page in disbelief. But it’s true. Starting this month, Italy is offering its 18-year-old residents the equivalent of $563 to spend on culture, from concert tickets, books and museum admission to other qualifying events.

To get the money, they need to register online and download an app.

“Do we want to try?” says the teacher. “Yeah? So get your phone.”

Youth unemployment in Italy is nearly 40 percent in a country that’s been struggling economically for years. So the free cash is a welcome surprise for teens like Daniele Montagna, who knows where he is going to spend his first.

“On the concert of JB — Justin Bieber!” he rejoices.

And he can. The program doesn’t distinguish between pop culture and highbrow culture.

The Italian government is hoping the program will educate kids born in Italy as well as integrate a growing population of foreign residents, dissuading alienated youths from following radical Islam.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi first announced the so-called Culture Bonus last November after the Paris massacre, when Islamist terrorists killed 130 people inside a theater and outside on the streets.

“They destroy statues, we protect them,” he said in a speech at the time. “They burn books, we’re the country of libraries; they envision terror, we respond with culture.”

But some question whether exposing young Muslims to, say, Lady Gaga will really endear them to Western culture.

“There is a chance that Lady Gaga is exactly what’s going to make somebody angry,” says Barak Mendelsohn, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and an expert in combating extremism. “That doesn’t mean that they buy into your values. We’ve seen radicals trying to take advantage of the welfare state, funding themselves while building bombs.”

He points to the Paris attackers. French authorities estimate they collected more than 50,000 euros in unemployment benefits — even while at least one of them had a job.

“They don’t have any ideological obstacle in taking money from Western countries,” Mendelsohn adds.

Source: Italy’s ‘Cultural Allowance’ For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism : Parallels : NPR

Where’s the Outrage Over Nun Beachwear? – The Daily Beast

Indeed:

Go to any public beach in Italy and chances are you’ll eventually see a woman wearing a veil and long skirt. But she likely won’t be a Muslim in a version of the controversial burqini. She will almost certainly be a Catholic nun in her summer habit either watching children in her care or, God forbid, just enjoying some sun, which is considered a human right here in Italy, where the sea defines the majority of the borders.  

No one in Italy would dare blink an eye at the sight of a habit-wearing sister at the seaside or even in the water

“We have nuns on the beach all the time,” Marco Beoni, a barista at a coffee bar along the sea near Sabaudia, about an hour south of Rome, told The Daily Beast. “They go in the water in their skirts and sit on blankets just like everyone else. Who cares what they are wearing. What’s the problem?” 

 In fact, most Italians are at odds with edicts at several French beach resorts banning women wearing the burqini (also spelled burkini), as the modest full coverage swimwear is called. Even Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has waded into the debate in Paris, declaring the wearing of the burqini is “not compatible with the values of France and the Republic.”

Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, himself no great fan of immigration or integration of non-Italians into the country, said he thought France was making a mistake by banning the burqini. “We aim to avoid certain prohibitions that can be interpreted as provocations that could trigger retaliation towards Italy,” he said when asked if Italy would follow France in banning what has been interpreted as religious wear on the beach. “After all, the ‘French model’ of integration has not yielded great results.”

It should be no surprise at all that the Catholic Church, for its part, doesn’t see any problem whatsoever with modest swimwear. The head of the Italian bishops, Monsignor Nunzio Galantino said that caution is understandable, but only when tempered with common sense. 

“It’s hard to imagine that a woman [in a burqini] who enters the water is there to carry out an attack,” he told the daily Corriere della Sera in a far-reaching interview on the topic. “I can only think of our nuns, and I think of our peasant grandmothers who still wear head coverings.” 

Making an analogy with the wearing of a cross or a kippah, Galantino said, “The freedom to be granted to religious symbols should be considered on a par with the freedom to express one’s beliefs and to follow them in public life. And, let me tell you: I find it ironic that we are alarmed that a woman is overdressed while swimming in the sea!”

Will Italy finally bring its #citizenship laws into the 21st century?

Not an easy political debate to have in the current mass migrant context:

Fred Kuwornu, an Italian-Ghanaian director, has been waiting for years for this moment. In 2011, he made a documentary called 18 IUS SOLI. Screened at film festivals across the world, including Venice, it called for Italian citizenship to be made available to people born in Italy to foreign parents.

Now it’s more than cinema; the Italian Senate is debating this very possibility.

That’s if politics and the migrant crisis don’t get in the way.

<p>Hundreds of thousands of people born in Italy to non-Italian parents could soon be eligible for citizenship if changes to the country's nationality laws are passed.</p>
Hundreds of thousands of people born in Italy to non-Italian parents could soon be eligible for citizenship if changes to the country’s nationality laws are passed.(www.ilprimatonazionale.it)

“The issue is very complex. I believe that today it is not possible to be just a citizen of the country your parents are from or where you were born,” Kuwornu tells Equal Times.

Currently, Italian citizenship is largely based on jus sanguinis which relates to having Italian ancestry.

According to the current law, No.91 of 1992, children born in Italy to non-Italian parents must apply for Italian nationality between their 18th and 19th birthdays. They can only apply if they have lived in Italy continuously for their whole life. Even in a country notorious for its lengthy bureaucratic practices, the process is particularly long and complicated.

The new ‘tempered’ law would base citizenship on the principle of jus soli (or the right to citizenship based on one’s place of birth) or on cultural participation (at least five years of education after the age of 12 in Italy) – jus culturae.

In accordance with jus soli, children born in Italy to non-EU citizens (one of whom has to have a resident’s permit) will be eligible for Italian citizenship.

A November 2015 report from the Ministry of Public Education revealed that there are more than 805,000 young people of school age born in Italy to foreign parents, although it is not clear whether all of these students would be eligible for citizenship under the new rules.

“The tempered jus soli seemed to be the best compromise. I do, however, hope that this law will be approved quickly,” says Kuwornu, whose documentary promoted legislative change through community screenings, discussions and cultural initiatives.

It may yet be some time before the law is passed, however. The Chamber of Deputies approved it on 13 October 2015 with 310 votes in favour, 66 votes against and 83 abstentions, but it still awaits a vote in the Senate, where lawmakers held a hearing on the subject on 30 March 2016.

Anti-immigrant sentiment

What complicates the process are elections – for the mayor of Rome on 5 June and other administrative balloting – amidst a certain amount of hostility towards the new law.

Against the backdrop of the migrant crisis, populist politicians across Europe have helped to stir anti-immigrant sentiment. In Italy, the Lega Nord (Northern League) has drawn thousands of protesters in their demonstrations against immigration.

Supporters fear that failure to passed the jus soli law now could add years of second-class citizenship for many second-generation immigrant youth.

The new law has also been criticised by pro-immigration groups that see it as less-inclusive compared to the ambitious 2011 campaign ‘I’m Italy too’ (L’ Italia sono Anch’ io), supported by many Italian associations.

Source: Will Italy finally bring its citizenship laws into the 21st century? – Equal Times