THE CHILDREN’S CONFERENCE br />AT THE BELL OF THE FALLEN

The Fondazione Opera Campana dei Caduti e della Pace has organised the Children's Conference at its headquarters in Rovereto since 1997. The event, attended by more than 1500 young people, is the most important manifestation of peace and solidarity among peoples to involve primary and middle schools in Trentino. The event has seen its appeal grow year by year among schools and in the media. Increasing numbers of Trentino and Italian schools take part in the conference, which has also become a landmark for schools around the world operating in situations of conflict and seeking to build routes to social, educational and community reconciliation between peoples and ethnicities.

Purpose and values
Purpose and values

Preparation
The day of the conference is not only the culmination of a lengthy journey of study, research and reflection in class, but also the central point of a large number of initiatives involving many of the province's schools. These include talks, conferences, concerts and readings which mobilise thousands of pupils, parents, adults and teachers in every corner of the province. The preparations for the Conference last several months and consist of a programme of study, discussion and research carried out in lessons under the supervision of teachers. This is a multidisciplinary programme which addresses the subject of peace from a historical, moral and artistic perspective. The results of this work are summarised in a message 84 words long (the number of nations which have endorsed the founding principles of the Campana dei Caduti Foundation and whose flags fly along the walkway to the Bell) and an oil painting. Both are taken to the Conference and displayed for a year in the Peace Park (near the Bell, open to visitors).

What happens during the Conference
On the day of the Conference, two pupils from every class gather in the hall of the Visitors' Centre adjacent to the Bell of the Fallen. Here the pupils present and share the fruits of their collective research and, working together, draft a definitive document which will be sent to the Head of State. All the other pupils participate in the parade of paintings carried by the various schools and, with the help of an actor, prepare a highly imaginative and symbolic choreography to represent the chaos and darkness produced by war and mutual incomprehension and rebirth through peace and concord. The concluding act then takes place at the end of the morning session. All the children form a circle around the Bell of the Fallen; the definitive message of the conference is read; Beethoven's Ode to Joy is sung in three languages (previously prepared at school); the choreographed performance prepared during the morning is executed. With its one hundred strokes, the Bell accompanies the final part of the scene, participating as a spirit of harmony whose universal sound awakens consciousness and lifts humankind from sorrow to a possibility of Peace.

Foreign delegations
The presence of foreign delegations is a remarkable and distinctive feature of the Conference. Over the years, the event has seen the participation of schools from former Yugoslavia, the Bilingual Arab-Jewish School of Jerusalem and the World Friendship Centre of Hiroshima. The pupils of overseas schools contribute by addressing a message of intercultural peace to their peers, in various languages. This message is meaningful and moving for the Italian pupils precisely because it springs from the daily experience of children similar to them. Recent years have also seen the enthusiastic participation of foreign schools twinned with Italian schools and hosted by them, evidence of the scale and international importance garnered by the Campana dei Caduti e della Pace Foundation.

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