Sicilian life is widely affected by the Mafia, but its presence remains a taboo topic among the island’s population. Through the Erasmus+ project Hand in Hand Against Mafia, youth from seven European countries gathered in the capital of Sicily through an initiative taken by the anti-mafia organization Libera Palermo.
Since the two magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were murdered in 1992, civic anti-mafia engagement among Sicilians has increased considerably. The movement to take Sicily back from the tentacles of the Mafia has seen the emergence of prominent organizations such as Libera, Agende Rosse and Addio Pizzo. Libera – associations, names and numbers against mafias – is presently a network of more than 1,200 associations, groups and schools, committed to build up organizational synergies between the political and cultural local realities capable of promoting a culture of lawfulness. The mission of Agende Rosse is to search for the truth of the murders of Falcone and Borsellino, and to protect those endangered by Mafia. Addio Pizzo attempts to combat the crippling effects that the Pizzo – protection racketeering – has on the lives of Sicilian business owners.
Through gaining firsthand experience from a city known for its gastronomy, rich cultural heritage and the Mafia, the participating youth will return home with an increased understanding of the complex subject of organised crime. Throughout the duration of the project the youth have interacted with members of the anti-mafia movement, as well as with local people and victims of the Mafia. This has mainly been achieved through the use of interviews and observational methods. The project has also allowed the participants to give something back to the local community, through raising awareness about the Mafia and how it can be challenged. To this end, the interviews were used to create a radio programme on the topic. The project was concluded with the organising of a flash mob, which brought a message of change to the heart of Palermo.
Hand in Hand Against Mafia is a good example of young people coming together, challenging structural oppression by sharing experiences and exchanging strategies on how to act within the civic society in order to counteract organized crime.
The understanding gained will surely guide the participants in their further efforts as they return home with a readiness to disseminate their knowledge and to put it into practice.
Written by: Alf Sjösvärd, Catalin Moraru and Carl Bradshaw
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