February 17, the Freedom Day (in pandemic times)

On February 17, 1848, King Carlo Alberto granted civil rights to his Protestant subjects, the Waldensians. Since then, for the Waldensians and for all the Protestants, the 17th of February has been a day of celebration. This year, the usual initiative of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy to celebrate this moment has three key words: science, care, freedom. Online the events on the 17th from 5 pm to 6.30 pm.

foto di Elisa Biason, il cielo di Lampedusa

Rome (NEV), February 13, 2021 – How can freedom be expressed and celebrated in pandemic times? The issue will be discussed in a meeting promoted by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) on the occasion of February 17, the Feast of Freedom. The title of the debate, scheduled for February 17 from 17 to 18:30 (on zoom), is precisely “Citizenship, freedom and care at the time of Covid-19”. “The FCEI customary initiative  to remember February 17th  – explains Paolo Naso – this year revolves around three themes, suggested and dictated by the Covid-19 emergency, an emergency that is clearly becoming a real lens through which read not only the reality of these days but also that of the next few months, perhaps years. The three key words are science, care and freedom. Science because we have a problem not only of objective and accurate information, but also of sharing and transparency of the health processes that accompany the administration of vaccines. We have understood that there are also problems of democracy, linked to access to treatment and vaccinations: we need to think about all these issues. The second focus is that of care: Covid-19 is also a pastoral problem. We think of people who died in absolute solitude, the accompaniment of relatives who were unable to take leave of their loved ones in the most appropriate way. The third and last word is freedom: it is clear that the prevention and the fight against the pandemic are limiting our potential – think of those who work, those who study, those who need to move – but it is also limiting the possibility of freely celebrating cults and other religious moments. We are not speaking only of the Protestant world, but of all the people who have a faith and attend a religious, spiritual place”. On these issues, “together with highly qualified experts we want to reflect – concludes Naso -, with a specific reference to February 17th which was established as a day of freedom. A day meant as a moment in which we dream of liberation from norms and laws that undermined a fundamental freedom such as religious freedom for Waldensians and Jews, until 1848. Today we want to read this concept of freedom and liberation in this exceptional and particular time that we are experiencing because of Covid-19 “. At the meeting, after the greetings of the FCEI president Luca Maria Negro, will take part  Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of the Humanitas clinical institute, Elena Bein Ricco, professor of philosophy, Daniele Garrone, theologian and member of the FCEI Council, Massimo Aprile, Baptist pastor, Francesco Piobbichi of Mediterranean Hope, FCEI’s migrants and refugees program. The appointment will be moderated by lawyer Ilaria Valenzi of the FCEI’s Studies Commission.

February 17th 2021 is the day of the 173th anniversary of the Patent Letters with which the king of Sardinia, Carlo Alberto, granted civil rights to his Protestant subjects, the Waldensians. The decision was received with enthusiasm and greeted by the Waldensians around large bonfires. The tradition of the Bonfires of Freedom continues today and every year, in the evening between 16 and 17 February, many of them light up not only in the historic places of the Waldensian presence, as a signal that spreads from valley to valley to renew the news , but also in other places on the peninsula where Protestant churches exist. Since then, for the Waldensians and for all Protestant, February 17th has been a feast day. The following month of that same year on March 29, 1848, the king also granted civil rights to Jews.