The Torch of Peace: A Trip to Berlin

By Mary “Molly” Pflaum (SFS’26)

Molly Pflaum (SFS’26) (pictured on the right) with conference delegates in front of the Brandenburg Gate, including Caroline Lacitignola (C’26) (second on the left).

The setting sun’s rays set the skyline of Berlin aflame. On a stage set against the golden background of the great Brandenburg Gate, political and religious leaders from around the globe embraced the warmth of old friends. Swirling around me, a crowd of hundreds did the same, cheering and offering gestures of peace to one another. Overcome by the pure joy saturating the September air, tears flowed down my smiling face. This was the closing ceremony of the 2023 Sant’Egidio International Meeting for Peace, Religions, and Cultures in Dialogue, and it was the conclusion of one of the most fulfilling weeks of my entire life. 

For those who do not know, the Community of Sant’Egidio is an organization founded in 1968 with the objective of fighting for global peace. Today, Sant’Egidio is at work in over 70 countries, carrying out its mission by mediating peace agreements, serving the poor, and hosting meetings to encourage continuous dialogue and cooperation. I became involved in the Sant’Egidio Community of Washington D.C. during my freshman year at Georgetown. Each Friday night, I and a few other students meet members of Sant’Egidio to walk the streets of D.C. and pass out food and clothing to people suffering from homelessness. Through this project, I have forged meaningful personal connections in service of the local community while contributing to a larger advocacy against inequity in D.C. When I received the unexpected invitation to represent Georgetown University at Sant’Egidio’s international conference this September in Berlin, I was thrilled at the opportunity to take my passion for service to the global level. 

I, along with nine other young men and women from Georgetown, Princeton, and Boston College, flew to Europe as the very first formal delegation of American university students to attend this wonderful event. There, we engaged with fellow Sant’Egidio members from all around the globe and attended forums discussing critical challenges to the achievement of universal peace. I sat in on panels covering topics such as democracy, the testimonies of migrants and refugees, the merits of globalization, and a conversation with the current German chancellor on peace in the modern world. At each of these forums, I gained fascinating perspectives on issues I care very deeply about from inspiring voices that I would not have had the opportunity to hear anywhere else. 

Most impactful was the closing ceremony. Standing beneath the Brandenburg Gate, I, my friends, and hundreds of other attendees watched the world’s political and religious leaders sign an official commitment to peace. As the final signature dried, the gathered crowd erupted, joyfully cheering in countless different languages. This ceremony represented the fruition of a new era of respect and cooperation, of global unity against the forces of evil that oppress. Never will I forget the golden hope that ignited within my chest at that moment and burns there still today. To my fellow Georgetown students, I say that the preservation of this hope now rests in us. As future leaders, we are called to carry this torch of peace through continued dialogue, compassion, and service.

Learn more about the Community of Sant’Egidio.

*Student reflections are edited for space and clarity.