Annette Löw, a German focolarina who has been living in Italy for quite some time, chose to take her summer holidays in an unusual place this year: Pakistan. The choice of destination had nothing to do with the economic crisis, but rather came from the desire to build universal brotherhood also during her summer break. This year, like many other focolarini, she wanted to be part of a ‘temporary focolare’, set up for a short time where there is no focolare house and where there is some particular need.
As soon as she arrived in Pakistan, people’s generosity led her to experience the communion of goods as she was given some beautiful local clothes. This put her immediately at ease and made many people happy as they saw how she adapted herself to the local culture. Her meeting with this country, however, required getting used to breakfasts of chapatis, lentils or beans, all of which were extremely spicy, and all washed down with chai, Pakistani tea that is boiled several times. Apart having to negotiate new eating habits, she had get used to water and electricity being rationed and to a form of punctuality that is anything but German.
Annette’s journey ended in Dalwal, at the Focolare’s little town called “Hope”. She said it as a real jewel: ‘As soon as I set foot in the little town it seemed to me I was walking on “holy ground”, a place that was blessed by a powerful presence of God!’ This impression was confirmed in the month that followed by the powerful unity lived with the other inhabitants of the little town who, in fact, are mostly Muslims. Annette put it like this: ‘Often our Muslim brothers’ and sisters’ time of prayer coincided with our Communion Service and, I must say, that this helped me to discover a deep union with God, feeling myself upheld in prayer by a whole people (and not just a single people but many).’ In this context also the presence of a chapel, something that many Christians take for granted, is appreciated and valued: ‘Going into the chapel, several times I was deeply moved because Jesus was there, alive, in the tabernacle, always, and he awaited us: what a miracle!’
In “Mariapolis Hope”, Annette lived the normal life of its inhabitants, for example helping with the cooking and learning to make chapatis. But everyday life meant also experiencing Ramadam, and neither eating nor drinking, at least for several hours, as everyone does in public places out respect for those who are fasting. In the little town Annette participated in the school of formation lasting eight days. It was a unique opportunity to be united with those live the Movement’s spirituality. After that she took part in a meeting with the gen 3 girls, young people who are part of the Focolare.
The purpose of her trip was certainly to help in the various activities of the Movement and therefore no tourism had been planned. But God does let himself be beaten in generosity and there was a chance to visit the most beautiful mosques in Lahore with the gen 3 girls, to go on a brief outing to India and to visit Rawalpindi and see the biggest mosque in the country.
On her return to Italy, Annette had to admit that being part of the temporary focolare was wonderful because it allowed her to have a deep experience of self-giving in unity, discovering a marvellous land and superb people. It is not for nothing that Pakistan means ‘land of the pure’.
By Antonio Bruni