From Saint Peter’s Square to Ground Zero to reiterate a message of peace, reconciliation and hope. On the occasion of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the photographic exhibition, “Emotions to Generate Change — Women’s Cry”, was presented in New York on Wednesday, 20 September. The exhibition was put on display for the first time last May, against a unique backdrop: Bernini’s Colonnade in Saint Peter’s Square. The exhibition, curated by Lia and Marianna Beltrami, is a collection of 26 pictures taken by eight photographers from different parts of the world. Its focus is on the resilience of women in remote parts of the world or in countries devastated by war. The exhibition was hosted at the Perelman Performing Arts Center, which was recently inaugurated in the area where the World Trade Center stood before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Women’s Cry exhibition was made possible thanks to the collaboration of a variety of organizations: the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations ( umofc-wucwo ) through its World Women’s Observatory, the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communication and the Handshake Agency. Following the remarks of the artistic director of the Perelman Performing Arts Center, Bill Rauch, the Vice Director of Vatican Media, Alessandro Gisotti, highlighted that this exhibition tells “stories of fraternity, reconciliation and the struggle against all discrimination, supporting human dignity and human integral development. That is why each photo is accompanied by a phrase taken from Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti”. This exhibition, he continued, “not only shares the cry of women, as the title itself indicates, but wants to emphasize the hope that women give to their communities, their people and the whole world”. Recalling that media theorist Marshall McLuhan defined a photograph as “writing with light”, Gisotti noted that the photographs in the exhibition have the “light that emanates from the courage of women, mothers, daughters, working women, women who overcome every possible obstacle to give a better future to the people they love”. Indeed, he added, we “are sure that those who see the exhibition will take home some of that light that these women radiate to make today’s world less dark”.
Lia Beltrami, in turn, chose to focus on hope, which “characterizes all the stories told through the exhibition’s images. A hope”, added the curator, “that draws strength from the tenacity of women capable of overcoming the most difficult trials for the good of their own family and their community”.
Women were also the focus at the Religions for Peace International headquarters, located in front of the United Nations building. There, the documentary, “Guardians of the Rainforest”, by Lia and Marianna Beltrami, and sustained by the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, was screened. The film aims to turn the spotlight on Indigenous women who fight to defend the rainforests in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Borneo.
The screening was followed by a discussion on the role of Indigenous people in the protection of creation. Echoing the importance of the theme and of the documentary during the Religions for Peace event was Gabriel Labbate, head of the Climate Mitigation Unit of the United Nations Environment Programme ( unep ).