Maria Voce’s trip to Johor to meet the Focolare communities is the chance for her to get to know some Asian countries better, in particular Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Indonesia’s motto is ‘Unity in Diversity’ and it expresses the huge ethnic and linguistic variety of the world’s largest archipelago state, made up of 17,508 islands. In all these nations the Christians (of various churches) are less than 10% of the population and the majority are, in Indonesia and Malaysia, Muslim, and, in Singapore, Buddhist and Taoist.
More or less during the 60s the seeds of the spirituality of unity began to be spread in this part of the world through religious such as Fr Tarcisio Centis, in Medan (Indonesia) and clergy such as Fr Jose Lai (Singapore), currently bishop of Macau, as well as through the magazine New City and the Word of Life leaflet. In 1991 two focolare centres were opened in Singapore, which have now moved to Yogyakarta in Indonesia, and in 2004 two were opened in Medan.
Towards the end of the 80s it was the turn of Malaysia to receive the spirituality. This time it was via Fr Raphael Kang. After that in the 90s there were Mariapolises in Johor and Penang and a Familyfest (as the name suggests, a gathering for families) held in Penang. Some members went to the formation school in Loppiano and to international events such as the gathering for young adults, called Genfest. In Malaysia (in Johor) there is a ‘family focolare’; and various members of the Movement are spread throughout the nation.
The seeds of the spirituality have grown, giving life to many small but active communities, which have started initiatives involving people from different confessional backgrounds,
Today the centre of this Focolare life is in Yogyakarta, on the island of Java. Vanna Lai and Caloi Adan, jointly responsible for the Focolare, gave some details: ‘Every Island here in Indonesia has its own mentality and way of doing things. It’s surprising,’ said Caloi, ‘to see so much variety and cultural richness with the same country. Even the two Indonesian focolarini who are here in Yogyakarta, and are from Sumatra, say that practically all they have in common with the Javanese is their official language.’ ‘Between June and September,’ they went on to say, ‘there were three Mariapolises: at Penang, Johor (in Malaysia) and Medan (in Indonesia), which drew together around 400 people.’ Where is the Movement most active? ‘Above all in the local Church, as can be seen from the number of appointments given to religious, the school for catechists in Yogyakarta, where recently Fr Salvo d’Ota OMI spoke about the Eucharist in relation to the spirituality of unity, and the invitation to a number of gen from Singapore to give their witness to a group of young adults taking part in parish camp. The young people’s sporting event, Run4unity, was held in Bantul, near Yogyakarta. There were about a 100 people present, both old and young, nearly all Muslims. Furthermore, thirty-one young people went to the Genfest in 2012 in Budapest.’
Vanna carried on, ‘It’s worth noting that this was our way of taking part in the celebrations of several Muslim villages on the day when they recall the historic event when the young people made a promise to live for the unity of the nation.’ These are villages where the Focolare Movement has contributed to rebuilding a number of structures after the earthquake in 2004.
It is possible to follow the journey at focolare.org.