The Focolare began to establish contact with Muslims in the 1960’s.
In Algeria a deep friendship was begun among Christians and Muslims in the 1970’s, which then spread in the city of Tlemcen. This gave rise to a Focolare community that was almost entirely made up of Muslims. This not only overcame barriers between Islam and Christianity, but also the cruelty of the civil war.
This friendship was the basis of eight international gatherings for “Muslim Friends of the Focolare” from 1992 to 2008. Now there are several thousand Muslims who are in contact with the Movement around the world.
At the end of the 1990’s in the United States a new page was turned in relations between Christians in Muslims. Chiara Lubich, a white Catholic woman was invited by charismatic American Muslim leader, Imam W. D. Mohammed, to share her message to the faithful gathered at the Malcolm X Mosque in Harlem, N. Y. At the conclusion of that day in May 1997, the Imam stated: “Today, here in Harlem, New York, a new page in history has been written.” The two leaders made a pact of brotherhood between them and their respective movements. Since then there have been regular encounters between Muslim and Christian communities who look toward universal brotherhood and have an impact on their local environments. More than forty mosques and local Focolare communities are involved in this experience in several U.S. cities.
The path of discovery between the spirituality of unity and Islam has had some notable moments: the meeting for Muslim friends held in 2008 in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, which was entitled “Love and Mercy in the Bible and in the Holy Koran”. The presentation by Muslim Professor Adnane Morkrani, entitled “Reading the Koran with the Eye of Mercy” was very much appreciated by the Imams and faitfhful who were present.
In 2010, 600 Christians and Muslims met in Loppiano, Italy. Many of them were presidents and Imams of Islamic communities in Italy. As Imam Layachi said, the meeting was both an arrival point and point of departure for many experiences begun and carried forward in several parts of Italy.
In Tlemcen, Algeria, which was one of the capital cities of Muslim culture for 2011, a meeting was held for Muslim members of the Focolare Movement with the title “Living Unity”. The eighty participants came from ten countries. The presence of Muslim professors also proved valuable because they were able to examine topics of spirituality from a Muslim perspective that were based on a real life experiences.
The presence of Muslims has grown in recent decades in Italy, because of immigrations. In many cities in the north and south of the peninsula a real and true friendship has begun between the faithful of Christian and Muslim communities. On November 25, 2012 in Brescia, Italy, some 1,300 Christians and Muslims joined together for a day entitled Common Paths for the Family, which was promoted by the Focolare Movement and several Islamic communities. In Catania, Italy, on April 23, 2013 there was the meeting celebration The Muslim Family, the Christian Family: challenges and hopes, in which 500 people gathered in the name of dialogue.
On March 20, 2014, there will be an event at the Urbania University of Rome, dedicated to Chiara Lubich and Religions: Together for the Unity of the Human Family. The gathering will highlight her efforts for interreligious dialogue, six years after her death. The event also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate. Leaders from the Muslim world are also expected to attend.