ITALY: Outrage and mourning over the murder of Willy Monteiro

ITALY: Outrage and mourning over the murder of Willy Monteiro

By Giovanna Bonomo-Blescia

“BRING ME BACK MY SON! I WANT WILLY!” – cries heard by Willy’s mother.

Figure 1 (ANSA)

ITALY: One of the worst and most absurd murders committed in the province

On September 6, four Italian men were arrested on charges of manslaughter in the beating that led to the senseless death of 21-year-old Willy Monteiro Duarte in the small town of Colleferro of the Metropolitan City of Rome in the Lazio region of central Italy.

Willy was a bright-eyed student, hard worker, passionate soccer fan and valued member of his tight knit Italian community. Once warmed by his brilliant light, Willy’s family, friends and neighbours, of all ages, are now navigating the dark reality of racism— a reality that they hadn’t experienced, until now.

Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign affairs minister, posted:

“You can’t die like that. At 21, kicked, punched and beaten to death at the hand of thugs. It’s not possible. Willy deserves justice, and whoever killed him must pay an exemplary punishment. Violence is repulsive and worsened when heightened by racial discrimination. A civil state like ours has a duty to fight and stem a similar drift. No one will be able to return Willy’s smile to his family. The pain his family is feeling today is immense. We stand with them with the commitment to guaranteeing justice to this extraordinary and smiling boy. A person who deserved everyone’s respect. And still had so much to give to this country.”

A beautiful young man with big goals, high hopes

“Willy Monteiro Duarte dreamed of one day wearing the Giallorossi jersey of his beloved AS Roma. That dream was crushed last night, in the most tragic and brutal of ways. Our thoughts are with Willy’s family and friends. Rest In Peace, AS Roma fan.”

Does Italy have a racism problem?

After the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, I had to look at my own adopted country of Italy to ponder that question. But this wasn’t a question I felt entitled to answer, so I asked my Black friends living in Italy if they had experienced instances of racism in a country they love as much as I do. Although they believe Italy isn’t a racist country, they all had a few odd run-ins due to ignorance that they say are not inherent to Italy, but happen in other countries as well.

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak – Ecclesiastes 3:7

It’s a curious thing we do, posting when prompted, reacting too quickly, all before we’ve taken the time to linger on what’s transpired. So when Social Media was baiting me to speak up, I stayed silent.

In my silence, I came to the understanding that the biggest crisis we have on our hands is not a virus. No. The biggest threat to our existence is our indifference to one another – our disdain for those who are unlike us, our unwillingness to dialogue with those who are different than us, and our growing lack of empathy.

We have become a people hardened to the miracle of human life.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16

So, this is no longer just a question of what happened, how it happened, who’s to blame or which countries are racist or which ones are not. This is a deeply-rooted disease infecting humanity across borders. A condition born of ignorance due to a growing lack of the understanding, and oftentimes perpetual forgetting of the truth about who we are in God.

The truth that continually fills our cup with empathy.

The truth that can bring justice and peace.

The truth that you are God’s temple.

Standing in solidarity

If we are to stand in solidarity that Black Lives Matter, then let us not only look at statistics but instead, let us share the story behind the numbers. Tonight, show your children Willy’s bright eyes that have prematurely been snuffed out —a son, a brother, a friend, and another temple of God senselessly destroyed by racism.

Don’t let Willy be a statistic destined to be forgotten, rather let him be an everlasting reminder of the disparaging consequences indifference has on humanity.

If we talk to each other and not at each other, maybe, just maybe, Willy’s can be the tragic tale that serves to help us see the light in others and soften our hearts.

Let me stay silent no longer.

Rest in Peace, Willy.

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