Following an invitation from the Nuncio, Mgr Joseph Spiteri, three focolarini from India, Marilu, Ala Maria and Rey, spent twelve days in Sri Lanka. They found a Focolare community that was small but full of life, despite the fact that it is nine years since the last visit – the terrible civil war, which has left marks that are still visible, only finished last year.
During the visit it was possible to meet the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who met Chiara Lubich in the 70s and who is deeply interested in the Movement’s experience of inter-religious dialogue in India, and most especially of its ‘dialogue of life’.
This experience was also spoken about by Dr A. T. Ariyaratne, the Buddhist founder of the Gandhian Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, which in Coimbatore last January received the ‘Defender of Peace’ prize, given in the past also to Chiara Lubich. Some of the people who work with him were extremely pleased to learn of the relationship between the Focolare and the Shanti Ashram in India and expressed the wish that something similar could happen with them in Sri Lanka.
A wonderful moment, full of a sense of family, took place in the meeting with the community of the Movement made up of 25 persons who met the Focolare many years ago and who still desire to live its spirituality. Here a few impressions. A former teacher said: ‘I am going through a difficult moment but, coming here, I have understood that I must be the first to love.’ A woman who came for the first time said, ‘Seeing you so happy cannot leave me indifferent. You have given me courage and I shall start living in the same way.’ And a nun said, ‘Hearing your experiences and seeing you so vibrant has reawoken me.’ Mgr Spiteri, who was also present, at the end of the meeting gave a blessing, saying, ‘Now we have come to know this life, above all in this year of faith, we must be living witnesses of the word.’
Another moment of light was with the bishop emeritus Nicholas Marcus Fernando who, after he had been told about the Focolare’s inter-religious work, said, ‘Love is what’s needed. Before I thought that it was goodness, but that is an abstract concept. You need love for dialogue and for everything.’