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  • Writer's pictureMaddie Franz

Origins of the "Pace" Flag

Written by Maddie Franz

Since the beginning of March, there has been an explosion of rainbow flags with “PACE” written in bold face across Italy. Many American students, including myself, had never seen a rainbow flag outside of the context of the LGBT flag created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. However, this particular flag comes from Italy’s long history of anti-war protest.

The Italian Pace flag, representing nonviolence, predates Baker’s by 17 years. It was first used in a 1961 march for peace organized by Aldo Capitini (1899-1968). He set some of the women at the start of the march to work sewing strips of colored fabric together into the first version of the flag being flown today.

The 24 kilometer hike from Capitini’s hometown of Perugia to Assisi is only one entry in a long list of the nonviolent activism that the “Italian Gandhi” committed his life to. At 20 years old, he began rejecting the modernism and nationalism that laid the groundwork for Mussolini’s rise to power in 1922. In 1929, Capitini read Mahatma Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth, an eye-opening experience that would shape his career opposing the Fascist government and the Catholic church through writings.

Capitini would go on to found a number of Social Orientation Centers and Centers for Religious Orientation from 1944 on. His goal was to foster open and honest communication about the government and religion, respectively, amid a culture of secrecy and fear. Professorship at a number of Italian universities, multiple books written, and a magazine are just a few examples of his work.

Since the first march in 1961, the flag has seen a few resurgences based on international events. One of the major campaigns using the flag came in 2002 when war in Iraq was looming in the distance. In protest, Italians participated in the “Pace da Tutti i Balconi” (Peace from every balcony) campaign, finding huge success.

Today, the flag is often paired with the Ukrainian flag in opposition of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Its start at the end of February coincides with the rising popularity of the Pace flag. It hangs from the staff office building at the John Felice Rome Center and can be found at most public monuments. If you’d like to buy your own Pace flag to support nonviolence, it can be found online here or at the Kasa Shop on Via della Balduina.

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