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From Italy to the Middle East: Would You Take an Invitation to Meet the Unlikely Friend?

Photography: Sami Haven

At the top of a Tuscan hill in the heart of Italy, there is a medieval village called Rondine where students from war-torn countries learn to see with different eyes. There, in the remoteness of a Citadel of Peace, they are given the chance to meet, sit and talk with those that history identified as their enemies. They learn to uncover the human being within.

These students arrive from different areas in conflict in the Middle East, the Russian Federation, Southern Caucasus, and the Balkans, to share the time of their studies with 30 other scholars at the International Hall of Residence. “They strip off some of their preconceptions, touch their enemy, and look into their eyes. Something transforms within the inner soul of each student. And they return home with their own history upside down,” says the organization’s president Franco Vaccari.

Last Wednesday, as the association presented their Annual Report at the Italian Parliament, four new students from the Middle East were introduced. “Even through anger, pain, and depression, there is always a way at Rondine; the way of friendship, conceived in its public dimension as the foundation for the building of a civil society. If friendship ruled only in the private sphere, it wouldn’t change history. But Rondine is based in the building of trust,” Vaccari said at the event.

This year, the association is inviting new students from MENA for a summer school program within the project entitled “A New Leading Class for the South Mediterranean Countries”. Check out the Application Form, as well as the annual application form to participate in the Hall of Residence.

For more information: Visit Rondine’s website and Facebook Page, and don’t miss their TEDx Talk.

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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