Father Virginio Colmegna was nominated Man of the year 2016 by the Friends of the Tel Aviv Art Museum Association (also known as AMATA).
The AMATA awarded the prize to Father Colmegna, president of the Milan Charity House Angelo Abriani, for his commitment in helping people, such as refugees, to integrate in the society. The ceremony took place at Palazzo Marino, the Milan municipality palace, and was attended by the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv Mehereta Baruch-Ron, the municipality councilors Ruggero Gabbai and Filippo Del Corno and the president of AMATA Anna Sikos.
The award was assigned to the Charity House project “Shay”, an initiative that uses art as a therapeutic tool for foreign minors that arrive in Italy as illegal immigrants. Their artwork – as well as the painting of the children of the Tel Aviv Bialik Rogozin School – were part of the exhibition “Excellence has no color”, curated by the Italian art expert Jean Blanchaert at the Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation.
The Milan Charity House was an idea of cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, renowned for his commitment to interfaith dialogue. “I am sure that the cardinal would have been happy about this relationship with Israel,” said Colmegna. “He used to say: you have to face the excess of evil with an excess of kindness. In our Charity House we host more then 2,000 people where we want to create a place of culture. Martini said that the goal is to excel is solidarity.”
Colmegna gave the example of an African minor that arrived in Italy from Egypt through the sea. He then grew up in the Charity House, and later earned a degree and found a job. ‘After he created his own life, said Colmegna – he told me: now it is my turn, I want to host people in the same situation that I was in when I arrived in Italy. This is the circle of kindness’.”
“Colmegna is right, said deputy mayor Baruch-Ron, who emigrated to Israel from Ethiopia when she was ten. We have to look for a new kind of humanity. Globalization has brought challenges and the negative aspects of immigration are fewer than the positive ones. Immigration has a price but makes you richer.”
The deputy mayor of Tel Aviv also visited the Milan Jewish Community and was welcomed by the two presidents Raffaele Besso and Milo Hasbani and by chief rabbi Alfonso Arbib.