“During these hours in which we are literally bombarded with violence, war, and indifference, we wish to powerfully testify that there is another way, because there is!” This was the introduction that came from the stage of the Auditorium of Loppiano, Italy where Nino, Nahomi, Luigi and Anna had held a two hour long discussion with 1,400 young people.
The 42cnd Meeting of young Italians of the Focolare was held on the 1st of May in the permanent Mariapolis of Loppiano, Italy. This year’s title was: OUTSIDE, Look, Choose, Be.”
Many proposals were presented by the Young For A United World in support of a culture of fraternity, as a way of emerging from personal and social inertia and bring change to the world. Their “Fragments of Unity” Expo highlighted solidarity and social involvement, through a network of organisations which the young people run.
One powerful testimony: “My name is Kareem. I’m Palestinian. I’m 23 years old with a degree in Administration. After the fall of Arafat’s government things began to be difficult for us Christians on the Garza Strip. At that time there were around 2000 of us out of a population of one and a half million. Then our numbers dwindled. Two churches were bombed. The war began in 2008. One day, a bomb exploded near me, and I was thrown to the ground. So much destruction, so many dead! I first tried to go to my father at the United Nations office because it seemed a safe place, but it wasn’t possible. It took me four hours to reach my home, having to walk over many dead bodies. My mother was in tears, because she hadn’t heard from me. We lived through 28 days of that constant tension. Then we managed to leave the Garza Strip and get into Jordan. With the people from the Focolare, experiencing such a life of fraternity, I was little by little able to overcome the powerful trauma and to believe that with love we could build a world of peace.
I’ve been in Loppiano for seven months. Living with young people from so many different cultures, religions and experiences is something new for me, because we didn’t have any outside contacts in Gaza. But now, as I try to open myself and be accepting of others, I feel at home; I’ve discovered the treasure I’ve been searching for.”
“After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti which caused the death of more than 220 thousand people, thousands of Haitians migrated to Brazil,” says Joao from Florianopolis, in south Brazil. “Many of them have university degrees but, since they don’t speak Portuguese, they are only able to find work as bricklayers, and are often paid very little and treated with scorn. We asked ourselves what could be done. We began by gathering clothing and foodstuffs. We felt a bit awkward, because they only spoke French and Creole, and we were unfamiliar with their culture. But our strong desire to practice the Gospel sentence: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” overcame all the obstacles. Little by little we got to know them and also their problems. The first was language. We began offering them Portuguese lessons with slides and music. Then we helped them to obtain their documents and enrol in free technical training courses that are offered by the government, so that they could find employment and a better life. We held cultural nights, with food, song and dance from their country. We went to the seashore and played football together. . . We have begun to build an association to take advantage of all the possible opportunities offered by institutions in favour of their full insertion into local society. Not everything has been worked out and we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but it seems that a seed of fraternity has been planted.”
This has been a glimpse of the 2015 Meeting, rich with testimonies and many concrete proposals for responding to the urgent needs of many people. Meanwhile, a network of young people, associations, and organisations has already been very active for several years in Italy, operating at many levels of the social fabric, in what Pope Francis has called the existential peripheries: “We want to bring into the light this undergrowth of solidarity that is building a present and future of peace, but is not well enough known,” the young people from the Focolare explain.