The collaboration and friendship that binds the Ecumenical Council of Churches with the Focolare Movement has roots that extend to the 1960’s, and another page of this history was written on April 25th, 2013. Here, at the headquarters of the ecumenical organization a conference was held followed by a panel discussion titled: “Peace and justice, the fruits of unity”. The purpose of the event was to highlight the benefits that the charism of Chiara Lubich has produced in terms of interreligious dialogue, dissemination of basic paradigms for the promotion of human rights, and the promotion of communion in the practice of politics.
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit who is the Secretary General of the Ecumenical Council of Churches could not be present at the event, since he was taking an important trip to Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan. Instead, the General Secretary, M. Georges Lemopoulos was on hand to give a warm welcome to the guests and to underscore the importance of this event in the context of the preparation of the General Assembly of the Ecumenical Council of Churches that is to be held on October 30, 2013 – November 8, 2013 in Busan, South Korea, with the title: “God of life, lead us towards justice and peace”.
Doctor of Spiritual Theology, Michel Vandeleene, addressed the audience of 180 people, mostly representatives from local churches and members of international and ecumenical organizations. He read a message that was sent from the President of the Focolare Movement, Maria Voce: “I have great appreciation for the passionate commitment of so many – also here today – in favor of the full and visible unity of Christ’s Church, so that Christianity can unanimously make its indispensable contribution of life and thought toward the building of a more just and peaceful world. It brings joy to know that there are people of other faiths and humanitarian organizations who are united with us in this effort towards universal brotherhood, which is so important for toady’s humanity. “It is precisely brotherly love that has a transforming effect on our working together in relationships of reciprocity.” Michel Vandeleene then went on to describe the development and specificity of the charism of Chiara Lubich, stressing the “passion for peace, justice and unity” that earned her the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education and in 1998 that of the European Council on Human Rights.
During the panel discussion that followed, several speakers mentioned the inspiration they draw from the charism of Chiara in their efforts for peace and politics. Ada Marra, National Councilor of the Swiss Parliament shared his desire to maintain the dialogue with his colleagues, regardless of their political differences. He reaffirmed to his commitment to establish interpersonal relationships that are respectful of differences of opinion and ideology. Maria Francisca Ize-Charrin, former director of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, examined the connection between the lifestyle proposed by Chiara – unity – and the two principle concerns of the United Nations: the universal recognition of human rights and the protection of every person.
Professor Ioan Sauca, Director of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, added that “the friendship with Chiara Lubich produced significant results; among other things, the Institute has undergone a number of changes, including a greater unity between its members, collaboration with teachers of other religions and openness to students of new religious movements. One guest said he was touched by the meeting and emphasized that the implementation of the charism of Chiara “must begin with interpersonal relationships that will then induce a profound change in society and lead to the development and peace. “