Alberto Trevisan, one of the first conscientious objectors in Italy: “It was 1970, I did 2 years in prison, it was worth it”

PADUA – Did you understand that he was making history? «In the beginning, no. But I was born on September 21, International Day of Peace. Perhaps a little was written ».
To answer is Alberto Trevisanborn in 1947, one of the first conscientious objectors in Italy, even in 1970, when this choice was punished with prison, lasted nearly two years, in his case. A man who 10 years ago talked about himself in the volume “I broke my rifle” and who is now preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the law that put pen to paper the legality of dissent to military service.

How did this rebellion with respect to the armed service come about?
“It was a thoughtful feeling. I spent my youth in Feltre, where I was born, to arrive in Padua during the university years. Yet conscientious objection was born in me since high school, when a professor initiated me to the studies of Gandhi, Luther King, Thoreau, which was followed by a critical reading of the Gospel ».

So young and already so determined?
«After the medical examination at the Alpini recruit training center in L’Aquila, I postponed my departure due to my studies. Then I definitely decided that I would not be part of that reality ».

A costly choice.
“I decided to object for the first time on June 9, 1970, but not when I was finished. My objections were three, interspersed with a few months of freedom and three trials ».

Trials that have always seen her condemned.
«I was hosted in the prison in Rome, in Forte Boccea, then in Peschiera del Garda and, finally, in Gaeta. The latter was an imprisonment for definitive sentences, but where we were still forced to go because they feared that the presence of us deserters in Peschiera could create problems with respect to the many pacifists on the march ».

Wasn’t it alone in his choice, then?
“To tell the truth, my first objection was personal, intimate. Few were aware of it and, among them, there were my parents, great masters of freedom, to whom I explained my refusal to military logic and who made me feel their support ».

But then the group of deserters grew.
“We found several young people accused sharing the same thought: seven people. We were guided by different reasons: the Catholic creed, anarchist thought, radical philosophy. I have met Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been in prison for up to 5 years: total objection and final sentence. In 1971 we made the first collective conscientious objection, the keystone for the whole movement ”.

And what were his motivations?
«I reflected a lot while reading the Gaudium et spes of the Second Vatican Council, where for the first time the Church declared that there was no longer a just war, but it was right to respect the choices of conscientious objectors. It represented a pass to my feelings. I felt a secular spirituality, close to that revolution that was taking place in the Church. Yet in the objections I have been in contact with young people from different backgrounds and their roots did not weigh: we were all excellent travel companions ».

He was not a soldier, but he did. His pacifist battle meant being considered a criminal, losing his first job, spending 20 months in prison.
“What we were doing was not stupid: I did not go against a circular, but against Article 52 of the Constitution which stated the compulsory military service for everyone. People didn’t even know what conscientious objection meant: there was no crime either. We were condemned for disobedience, so that too was revolutionary for the legislature. The military code of war even provided for the death penalty for those who did not want to fight ».

When did you realize that something was starting to change outside the walls where he was being held?
«When I saw that my feelings were shared by other people: I understood that that movement would change history. Many young people demonstrated for us and the directors of the prisons themselves were pushing in Parliament for this law to be born ».

I think it is useless to ask her if she would do it again.
«I do it again every day (he smiles looking at the bracelet with the colors of Peace, ed). After many years I am called to Caritas or Unicef ​​conferences as a person who has left a mark, to give a direct testimony. I have helped build a more peaceful and non-violent society. In Rubano, where I live, I also created a department for education for peace and the defense of human rights, the first in Italy, which was followed by others. I talk about it with school children, children of the age of my grandchildren ».

Grandchildren who will never have had a toy weapon …
“They only have a wooden gun handcrafted by a sister-in-law. But they don’t like to shoot. ‘

Alberto Trevisan, one of the first conscientious objectors in Italy: “It was 1970, I did 2 years in prison, it was worth it”