One of many meetings which for more than 20 years throughout the world have created occasions for dialogue between the Focolare Movement and friends who profess no religious affiliation. This openness is far more necessary today in a world where discrimination between atheists, believers, agnostics etc, is less tolerated. Often times in countries where the religious sense is more developed, atheism often simply takes on the characteristics of anti-clericalism.
Chiara Lubich was among the first to perceive the importance of dialogue between Christians and friends of non-religious affiliations, and she did so with much sensitivity and a decidedly innovative approach to brotherhood. In May 1995 Chiara herself confirmed this in Loppiano. She said: “We have a universal vocation. Therefore, our motto is: ‘May they all be one’. Now, this ‘all’ includes you too.”
From that time on, opportunities to meet and exchange thoughts multiplied. Dialogues at 360 degrees developed, demolishing age-old stereotypes and prejudices. Peter Fleissner explains: “The human soul is something marvellous. And this is part of my materialism. Why do I commit myself to the Focolare Movement? Because we have a shared inheritance: the world we live in.”
James Hall-Kenney from New Zealand affirms that the Focolare aims to communicate with love, from the heart, even though there may be terminology differences.
Luan Omari (Albania) suggests focussing on our common values: “I believe in the values Jesus Christ preached even though I don’t necessarily believe that Jesus is the son of God, for example. But I embrace his values, I am in solidarity with these values. And this is the common ground which unites us.”
Claudio Vanni is the head of external relations at UNICOOP in Florence. He speaks of individualism as one of the characteristics which accompany consumerism: “Individualism, if affirmed as culture and concept, is the opposite of dialogue and therefore each one guards his or her own interests, not looking at the interests of the others, and without dialogue there is no common good, there is no social growth and there is conflict.”
Ruben Durante (Argentina) speaks about the importance of listening: “If I remain with my idea within me, I do not have the ability to listen which you need in order to tell me and give me your idea and your human experience.”
It is a dialogue which is continually evolving by trying to better define the relationships and points of view between “us” and “you” which nevertheless implies belonging to one and the same body.
Maria Voce, who was present at the meeting, addressed the participants: “What do I expect from our friends who have no religious affiliation? I expect that they take the ideals that animate the Focolare Movement to the furthest boundaries, outside the Movement itself. And what should our friends expect from us? I think they should hope for what each of us hopes for: to feel accepted.”
Compiled by Franz Coriasco