Pilgrimage produces project for peace

Rotary Peace Fellow Magdalena Zurita on the Via Francigena

By Magdalena Zurita, Rotary Peace Fellow, International Christian University, Japan, 2016-18
In May of 2018, I completed my master’s studies as a Peace Fellow at International Christian University in Japan. As I waited for the graduation ceremonies, I pondered where I should put everything I had just learned into practice. I was awakened one morning with a new and unexpected thought – traveling. And the word “Tuscany” resounded in my head.

Intrigued, I contacted a friend in Italy who suggested I should consider walking the Via Francigena, a thousand-year-old path that has been traveled by thousands of pilgrims since the Middle Ages. As I researched and read more about this ancient path, it seemed the perfect place to think and find answers. So after graduation, I made the necessary preparations and embarked on my trip.

The Via Francigena

The Via Francigena begins at the San Bernardo Pass, 2,000 meters above sea level and 1,000 kilometers from Rome. My trusty 7-kilogram backpack and I set out, walking between 18 and 34 kilometers a day. I walked through towns, cities, vineyards and forests. I passed over mountains and through plains, enjoying sunny days and enduring cold, cloudy days. I slept in abbeys, parishes and other lodgings. At each new arrival point, I put a seal in my pilgrim passport.

Sometimes I walked with others. But other times, I walked alone; contemplating my virtues and flaws, hopes and dreams. As I progressed, I got stronger and was able to increase my pace. I relished the unexpected surprises: laughter and singing with other pilgrims; sharing pasta and Italian espressos; and the gift of water from strangers who seemed to appear out of nowhere when I had nothing to drink.

Always, I remembered the great dream thatwee had taken me to Japan, to work for a fairer and more united world. And day by day, I connected that dream with the thousands of memories and ideas that sprouted in my mind from my studies on promoting peace and building partnerships. Step by step, I was building my next path.

Meeting with the pope

Zurita meets Pope Francis at the end of her pilgrimage.

Finally, my backpack and I arrived in Rome. And I received a unique gift: an unforgettable opportunity to meet Pope Francis. New discoveries also started to emerge. I began to understand my life as a path that is built, step-by-step, between ups and downs. I began to value “the internal walk” with meditations and daily prayers. I forged my “outward” path by promoting strategic partnerships and supporting humanitarian and environmental projects from more than 10 organizations in Argentina, Peru and Italy.

Little by little, this built the foundation for an endeavor I call Suyai – “Hope” in the language of the Mapuche people indigenous to Patagonia. The Suyai Project serves as an accelerator for peace projects through the promotion of strategic partnerships between individuals and institutions committed to at-risk people and natural areas. This new path brings me closer to my dream that would not have been possible without Rotary International: the organization that believed in me, contributed to my education, and inspired me to walk for peace. Let’s keep walking!

Adapted with permission from the Suyai Project

6 thoughts on “Pilgrimage produces project for peace

  1. Magdalena, I’m deeply moved. Reading your article made me feel that everything makes sense… We always remember you. You had people trusting you, and made us all feel that trust was overcompensated. Thanks! And let’s meet!

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    • Marta! Graciasss! 🙂 I always remember you and Marcelo too! You have been part of my path “Camino” too. Thank you for your great support! Of course, let´s meet! I am in Italy now but let´s meet in Argentina soon. Have a nice day! Un fuerte abrazo para vos y Marcelo! 🙂 Cariños,
      Magda

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  2. Magdalena. Read your pilgrimage note with interest. The first point which interested me was that you graduated from Peace Center at ICU. I visited ICU Peace Center several years ago to discuss peace with Executive Director. Although I am an American now, I was born and raised in Tokyo just prior to WWII. With carpet bombing of Tokyo, our house was completely destroyed. Interestingly, I became good friend with a bombardier who was on that mission. We talked often about Peace. He passed away around Christmas time 2018 at 95. The other interesting thing is that I lived in Tuscany for little over half a year in a hill top town called Castagneto Calducci. My father was educated in Rome so I always had a love of Italy. I am a second generation Rotarian. Last year I also visited Rotary Peace Center at Duke/UNC for their commencement conference. Because of the difficulties I had after the war, I am very much interested in Peace and what we can do in the future. All graduates of Rotary Peace Centers are key to this. Hope we can communicate one of these days.

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    • Dear Yori Okuda-san,
      Thank you VERY MUCH for your lovely message!!! 🙂 Your life story sounds very interesting. Thank you very much for sharing it! I would love to know more about it! I am living in Italy right now. I love this country too. And I am passionate about peace promotion, especially, by building bridges for helping those who are suffering more. I would love to be in contact with you to keep exchanging ideas and building bridges together for a more peaceful and united world! 🙂 This is my email: mzuritab@gmail.com I am on Facebook as Magdalena Zurita or Linkedin Magdalena Zurita Please write to me. Or I can write to you too if you have an email address.
      I will be at the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg in June in case you are attending it.
      Let’s keep in touch!
      Yori Okuda, thank you, again, for such a lovely and inspiring message! 🙂
      Have a nice day!
      Magda

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      • Magda. It’s so good to hear from you and definitely I’d like to continue this dialogue with you and whoever want to share in our vision. I was all set to go to Hamburg as well as to attend the Peace Symposium as I had attended the Peacebuilding Session last year in Toronto. We also finally had a booth at Friendship Hall to promote our agenda. Unfortunately, all had to be cancelled as my wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early this year. Since her life is limited before the pain starts, I decided to take her to Japan to say farewell to her three sisters and her closest friends. We fly out on Sunday. So, I’ll touch base with again when the situation is spoken of.

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