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Freedom and Subsidiarity: AVSI Participates in an Annual Cultural Festival in Italy
Friday, 19 August 2005 00:00

Under the banner of its provocative title, “Freedom is the most precious gift that heaven has bestowed upon men,” the Meeting at Rimini, an annual cultural festival now in its twenty-sixth year, will commence this Sunday, August 21s in the beach-side town of Rimini, Italy. The week’s schedule is packed full of cultural, political and theological presentations, featuring numerous politicians, artists, professors, journalists and religious leaders from Italy and around the world. Among the presenters, a few Americans will be on stage, including architect Daniel Libeskind, designer of the new monument at ground zero in New York; Charles Glenn, Professor of Education at Boston University; and Joseph Weiler, Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU. Sixteen multi-media exhibitions on topics ranging from Mozart’s life and legacy, to Constantine the great, to the legacy of Pope John Paul II, the writings of Graham Greene, and theories of probability will be on display for the week of festivities, presenting an open invitation to all. Half a million visitors are expected to flow through the meeting rooms and exhibition halls throughout the week. A full listing of the week’s events and exhibitions is available at the Meeting’s website (



What is Freedom?

The title of this year’s festival, borrowed from Don Quixote de la Mancha, provokes reflection on the true meaning of freedom. In the modern world it is easy to jump to the first definition of freedom as being the capacity to do as one pleases and to follow any desire or whim as it presents itself. In an article written by Giorgio Vittadini, he asks Does there exist a freedom which truly liberates man, regardless of being Christian or not? He answers with the claim that the answer can be found in the deepest dimension of the human person, that “I” which constitutes the core of the self as a unique and unrepeatable being. This core, one’s “I,” can be affirmed by all men, regardless of faith, by a simple act of reflection and recognition. When do we experience freedom? Paradoxically, it is not when we follow the popular conception of freedom and live with the illusion that complete independence and the possibility of fulfilling all one’s whims brings liberation. In fact, to be free from what is around us, and which can at times restrict us rather than set us free, depends simply on accepting that one belongs to someone or to something greater: it is through this choice of recognizing one’s belonging that man gains his freedom.


The organizers of the Meeting at Rimini offer the path of the Christian as an alternative to the popular conceptions of freedom:

Now let us take a look for a moment at the position of the Christian. For the Christian too, freedom is action, an active relationship. A relationship with God, active because it is full of desire, awareness and expectation; it is a relationship pervaded by the inextinguishable thirst for a query of revelation, it leads to a God who the Christian knows to be immeasurable. «If men wish to be free from all that which surrounds them, if they wish to be free of everything that exists around them, they must be dependent on God. The freedom of human beings is their dependence on God» (don Giussani, Meeting 1983)… No philosophy or thought exists that is as capable as Christianity of affirming the value of the human being, whose every negative act is redeemed by the freeing action of mercy.

Freedom and AVSI: a matter of method and education

This discussion of freedom relates to the method underlying all of the efforts supported by AVSI. AVSI is founded on the conviction that subsidiarity, a method which values freedom as the capacity of individuals and society of taking initiative “from below,” is the most appropriate approach to building up a society. Subsidiarity implies valuing the “I” as the starting point of any work and placing the person always at the center. As a result, subsidiarity brings with it an “educative” dimension, which, as opposed to a manipulative dimension, starts with an interest in the other person with all of his desires, which then prompts us to see his needs. Man is desire for beauty, happiness, truth and justice. In other words, man is an open-ended question, constantly in search of a fulfilling answer. Thus when man encounters something which has to do with his desire, he is reawakened to the meaning of his life and begins to understand his needs; in this way man regains his energy to search for answers and build a life. Thus subsidiarity, as a method of approaching the needs of a society, supports true freedom at the social, economic and political levels. An education to freedom and hope are cornerstones of the work of AVSI and of the formation sought out first for ourselves and then transmitted to those we encounter along the way.


Events at the Meeting

During the Meeting of Rimini, AVSI will collaborate with a number of presentations which reflect the method of subsidiarity by facilitating occasions for people to take their lives as a quest for truth and freedom seriously.


·          LIFE REGENERATES IN BRAZIL : this forum will present the work of AVSI in Brazil and the experience of the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Sao Paulo, and will include the testimony of the State Governnor of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.


·          DOTTORE, È FINITO IL DIESEL (Doctor, the Diesel is Gone) : this book presentation will introduce the author and his new book relating the experiences of AVSI doctors working in Uganda.


·          ONE HOUR of WORK THAT CHANGES YOUR LIFE: presentation and report of the 2004 fund-raising campaign which involved more than 700 doctors and nurses from more than 80 hospitals in Italy who gave the value of one hour work to support the activities of 27 private non-profit hospitals in Uganda which are part of a network, the Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau, and which meets more than the 50% of health care needs in the Uganda countryside.



a roundtable discussion and series of presentations on international cooperation in conflict and emergency situations, with a priority focus placed on protecting children.


·          HORIZONS OF PEACE: a roundtable discussion among Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Afghanistan, Mr. Hoshyar Al Zabari, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Iraq, and Mr. Gianfranco Fini, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Italy.

·          SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND CONFLICT: THE CHALLENGE IN AFRICA: a roundtable discussion with the 2005 Noble Prize recipient, Ms. Wangari M. Maathay, of Kenya, together with the Ministers of Environment of Senegal and Algeria.