By Laura Bastianetto, Italian Red Cross

Migration, reception and asylum are among the most frequently used words today in the media and public debates. But are people sure what these terms really mean?

To address this question, the Italian Red Cross and Encyclopaedia Treccani launched a campaign to promote humanitarian values through the Italian language. With five definitions – Reception, Migration, Asylum, Dialogue, Humanity – the campaign highlights concepts that are often misinterpreted, and therefore can lead to fear, misunderstanding and disorientation.

In October 2015, Massimo Bray, General Director of Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, started a communication campaign on the importance of the Italian language under the name #LeParoleValgono, “words matter”. It became a social movement reflecting on people´s understanding of words that reached an audience of 20 million.

Building on this approach, the Italian Red Cross launched a campaign in 2016, sending a message of solidarity and peace. The first phase started in May with five photos shot in crisis areas by photographer Paulo Siqueira and continued on World Refugee Day, 20 June, with five drawings by Valerio Chiola. Each of the photos and drawings represented one of the five keywords: Reception, Migration, Asylum, Dialogue and Humanity.

In the first 30 days, the campaign reached hundreds of thousands of people on social networks. The word “Humanity” attracted the most attention, with more than 205,000 views on Facebook and 50,000 on Twitter.

See human faces behind the words

“When dealing with migration issues, we often talk about numbers only,” says Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross. “But if we stop at the figures, we won’t discover the faces and stories behind, and won’t understand the phenomenon.

“In our work at the reception centres, we focus on the human being without regards to categories. With Treccani, we took a step forward focusing on words and their meaning, as the society we live in is conditioned by out-of-context images and slogans that lead to inadequate or even violent reactions. Our campaign turns words into clear and self-explaining messages,” adds Rocca.

This initiative supports the activities of the Italian Red Cross on welcoming migrants and is part of IFRC’s global campaign #ProtectHumanity.