“I arrived at a time of crisis, searching for answers to social and existential questions, and here I’ve found a powerful answer.” So says one of the many people who came from all over the Southern Cone (Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina) to take part in the School for Social Studies (EDS) that was held on July 6-8, 2013 at Mariapolis Lia, one of the Focolare’s small towns in Argentina.
There were three days of intense reflection and dialogue, which took off from the life experience of people engaged in human development. Some had many years of experience and others were just beginning. They worked together, trying to give answer to that fundamental question that is put to Cain by God: “Where is your brother?” It is a rather disturbing question that happened to coincide in those days with the strong appeal made by Pope Francis while visiting the island of Lampedusa, Italy where many African migrants land in the hope of finding better living conditions, and where many are often shipwrecked.
“What has most struck me during these days is seeing so many people from so many different geographical areas working at all levels of society, but all working with the same objective in mind: to love. Everything was so important that I want to start applying it right away.” The projects and activities in which those attending are involved are geared towards restoring human dignity among garbage heaps, health and community centres, centres for educational training and assistance, projects for the preservation of indigenous cultures, the promotion of social tourism, centres for the disabled, volunteer programmes in several NGOs and State entities, project administration, homeless shelters, social centres, trade unionists, business directors, politicians. . . The very fact of having all these people together to share their experiences was already very enriching.
The course was focused more on the social interests of the participants and their fields of endeavour rather than academic debates. And it favoured “gathering knowledge that was based on life experiences.”
“I take many tools and ideas with me, which I can apply to social projects in one of the high risk quarters where we are working.” “Expectations were amply met: I’ve attended previous courses and I feel that we are gradually growing in this call to social involvement in our cities.” “Thanks a million! Here we have learned to be in order to return home and do.”