The history of the community begins from humble origins, starting from a group of high school students amid the uprisings of 1968 wishing to have a positive impact on the community by helping to clothe and feed the poor in their Roman neighborhood.
Since then, its members have had an impact on national and global events – from Rwanda to Cuba – becoming a force to be reckoned with. Sant’Egidio’s climb from obscurity to fame is “truly something extraordinary,” according to former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
The reasons for its success, he added, can be found in the group’s adaptability, lack of a “hidden agenda,” association with the Catholic Church and Italian – if not quintessentially Roman – spirit of compromise and encounter.
Gentiloni described Sant’Egidio’s “informal diplomacy” as belonging more to “pacifiers [rather] than pacifists,” meaning centered around the art of compromise, flexibility and realism.