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Friday, February 28, 2014
Interreligious dialogue at the Focolare’s Eckstein Centre focuses on family values. A diverse multicultural group that gives witness to the richness of unity in diversity.

Oriental melodies, lines from the Koran and the Lord’s Prayer being sung with a translation in Turkish. . . . Everything was in place for the meeting on February 9, 2014 at the Eckstein Centre in Baar, Switzerland. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. Ninety Muslims and Christians had accepted the Focolare’s invitation to discuss family values as the basic cell of society.

Although living in Switzerland much of the audience had roots elsewhere: Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Madagascar, Albania, Kosovo, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Turkey, Egypt, Senegal and Sri Lanka.

The reunion began with excerpts from a video conference with Chiara Lubich in which she recounted the beginnings of the Focolare Movement during the Second World War; and the link between the words hearth or focolare and family. Through openness to different religions and cultures, this Focolare family has created a place for unity and dialogue among people of different Christian confessions and the faithful of other religions.

The testimonies – some quite painful –demonstrated the difficulty of becoming integrated in a foreign country; like the young Algerian woman whose husband had abandoned her two years into their marriage; or the Swiss couple whose son was in the grip of drug addiction; or those young parents who lost their first child.

Each story highlighted the strength that comes from faith in God and a supportive community.

During the video of Chiara speaking at the International Congress on the Family in Lucerne, 1999, she stated that “A family does not stop at the limits of kinship. A neighbour can also be a brother or sister.” Then she added: “All that happens within the family can be lived as both expectation and grace from God: just as a building has need of the foundation in order to rise, a family is consolidated through trials, but also through joys. Indeed, it is a school of love that contains within it all the shades of love: from mutual forgiveness to the invitation to constantly begin again. In summary: the family is an ongoing source of positive stimulation and vitality for both individuals and communities.”

A video link-up with a Muslim couple from the Focolare Movement in Algeria made a powerful impression. It was introduced as a personal experience of forgiveness: “In the evening I wasn’t agreeable to a decision my wife had made for the following day. But in the morning, the voice of God in my conscience: “Why are you angry with her? I’m not angry with you, even though you haven’t recited your prayers in a week.” So, “Why are you angry? I’m not outraged with you even though you haven’t said your prayers in a week.” And so, rather than having it out with my wife, I assisted her with her work.”

They went on to talk about the many other Muslim families who are committed in living the spirituality of unity.

In his concluding remarks, Imam Mustapha Baztami from Teramo, Italy, said he was convinced “that Christians and Muslims can offer a huge service to the world if they try to live together for family values.”

A conclusione, una dei partecipanti così si è espresso: «Secondo la mia educazione, era chiaro che noi possedevamo la verità e gli altri erano in torto. Oggi, qui, ho imparato ad aprirmi; ho scoperto che muri e pregiudizi devono essere distrutti».