Focolare Movement » People & Places Official International Website Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sierra Leone: assisting the Ebola victims Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:00:04 +0000

The serious Ebola outbreak spread particularly in Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with immense losses among the local population, as was communicated by the press. AMU, the NGO related to the Focolare Movement, is intensely involved in fighting the virus in various ways. We have asked Stefano Comazzi, one of the leaders, to tell us about this.

«In reality the situation seems to be much more dramatic than what is generally relayed, since the epidemic breakout is still beyond control. This goes to impact greatly on the lives of millions of people, due to travel restrictions and reduced business with the consequent scarcity of food, and impediments in schooling and work… not to mention the mourning in families hit by the virus, and who often lack the means to support the weaker members.»

Outbreak figures «As of today–Stefano affirms – the figures are imprecise since many cases are not recorded, and also because the epidemic outbreak in the rural zones has reached the big cities, where the dense population and the miserable living conditions strongly enhance the diffusion of the virus.»

Dramatic situations. As is known, «the healthcare operators are among the first to pay in person since in trying to limit the infection, they were in turn infected, often with deadly outcomes, thus weakening the health organisations that already had limited resources, and today are no long able to face this calamity. Furthermore, the lack of means and suitable medical equipment and material had forced many health centres to close since instead of being barriers to the spreading, ironically they became a means of spreading the outbreak»

Sierra Leone. A similar situation occurred also in the Catholic “Holy Spirit” diocesan hospital of Makeni in Sierra Leone, the locality where Fr. Carlo Di Sopra, a Xaverian priest and pioneer of the spirituality of unity in Africa is stationed and where there is a dynamic Focolare community.

Fr. Carlo, with the other religious of his congregation and the entire diocese of Makeni, is all committed to starting up again the activities of the hospital. «At the moment – he said – our structure manages to offer only limited first-aid services. We are, however, doing our best to carry out the urgent renovation works that will make the structure suitable to new challenges, especially regarding the purchase and installation in the new facilities, of a specialised medical laboratory for infectious diseases. With the hope that this Ebola emergency comes to an end, this laboratory will, however, continue to serve the local population in the prevention and care of other locally diffused infectious diseases (AIDS, hepatitis C, malaria, etc.)».

Project. This action is part of a more extensive project coordinated by Caritas and with the support of other associations in an integrated project of active assistance, not only in Sierra Leone but also in Guinea Conakry and Liberia.

The youth in the front line. «There are other immediate and concrete activities which the Focolare Movement supports, for the sick and their families – Stefano Comazzi concluded – in particular for those in quarantine and who will receive support with the contributions collected for this emergency.»

Those who wish to give their contribution may do so through the following account at Banca Popolare Etica – Rome Branch:

code IBAN: IT16 G050 1803 2000 0000 0120 434


registered in the name of Associazione Azione per un Mondo Unito Onlus

Reason: Emergency Ebola

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Buddhists and Christians, pathways for our times Wed, 17 Dec 2014 05:07:48 +0000

2014 12 11 Meeting group 2A Europe that is a little tired and pessimistic? Maybe. These were the terms used by Pope Francis when he spoke during his recent visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The challenges that Europe, together with the whole world, faces are many.

The convention of dialogue between Buddhists and Christians, which was held on December 10 at the Pontifical Urbanian University, sought a common message of hope so that the world does not revolve around economic interests, but have in its heart an anthropological orientation that affirms the sacredness of every human being.

The event was organized by the Ufficio Nazionale per l’Ecumenismo e il Dialogo interreligioso della Conferenza Episcopale Italiana (UNEDI) [National Office for Ecumenism and interreligious Dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference], the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue, the Italian Buddhist Union, together with various Christian and Buddhist organizations.

The crisis viewed from various perspectives: the anthropological-theological, so as to lay the foundations, and the economical financial to offer some input. Vincenzo Giorgino of the University of Turin, and Luigino Bruni of the Lumsa University of Rome, in fact, two voices, Buddhist and Christian, studied in depth the crisis and the uncertainty of contemporary man. From here emerged starting points for study and reflection on capitalism that can be replaced with new paradigms such as that of the economy of communion.

Then a medley of experiences about the battle against the crisis. The Community of St. Egidio shared on how they go ahead along their way made up of prayer, the poor and peace; the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta shared on how they help single mothers in Italy; the Focolare Movement related their experience of helping the migrants in Lampedusa and the journey of fraternity that has begun with the Muslims in Sicily. On the part of the Buddhists, the Rissho Kosei-kai of Japan shared how they raise funds through the Skip a meal campaign for situations of poverty, emergency, education, environment, refugees, wherever there is a need. The Tzu-chi Foundation of Taiwan, which was started by a small group of female Buddhist monks and housewives, now has 10 million volunteers and donors and has been able to send aid to 85 Countries.

CG1_2836The following day, the delegation of the Tzu-chi Fondation, led by their spokesperson Rey-Shen Her, was welcomed at the international headquarters of the Focolare Movement for a meeting to get to know each other better. Some Buddhists friends from Rome and members of the Focolare involved in various sectors were present. Tzu-chi, which in chinese means “compassion and assistance”, is the biggest Buddhist organization for charitable works in the world. It was founded in 1966 by Cheng Yen, a female Buddhist monk, the winner of the Niwano Peace Prize of 2007.

Through the respective presentations of spirituality and activities, even if in a very brief and concise manner, followed by an open dialogue, one is able to grasp some characteristics that are in common: they were both founded by women, the culture of giving is lived, there is the sense of being a family, reciprocal love and altruism, for example.

Answering to some questions, Prof. Her affirmed that «the activities of compassion towards those in need purify us». «These are words – affirmed Christina Lee, of the Center for interreligious dialogue of the Focolare  – that remind us of the words of Chiara Lubich, “we go to God through our neighbours”. Elements that unite us in the common journey towards universal brotherhood and for the good of humanity».

«Aware that our encounter with the other is either filled with humanity and compassion or it has failed in its mission: that of bringing God to the people of today, in a discrete and maybe sometimes hidden way, but nonetheless true and significant »,  concluded Fr. Cristiano Bettega, director of the UNEDI.



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Paraguay: 50 years of the Focolare Movement Mon, 08 Dec 2014 05:00:54 +0000 2014Paraguay50-1“Vy’aguasu peteĩ ñe’ẽme” (grand feast in a sole language), the event was given this title in Guarani, which besides Spanish is also the country’s official language. Just as the hearts spoke out in joyful unison on that occasion, last 16 November, Maria Voce wrote:

«With great joy I join you in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Ideal in your beloved land of the Guarani, and your festivities at the Mariapolis “Madre de la humanidad. We express our deep gratitude to all those who were the first tools in God’s hands … »

Some of these, protagonists of the beginnings of the Movement in Paraguay, recounted their fascination in discovering the novelty and adventure in following “a light that brightens every corner of existence.” Unconditioned, concrete and demanding Evangelical love, still continues to fill the lives of these eighty-year-olds brimming with life and wisdom.

2014Paraguay50-2Throughout the years, the spontaneous evangelical life of the first group gave rise to the Movement today, and is now diffused in all the main cities of the country, and like the “parable of the small seed, is now a gigantic tree which opens its branches across the world,” as Chiara Lubich had envisioned.

Along the lines of the “three keywords” Pope Francis recently addressed to the members of the Focolari’s General Assembly, the day was dotted with brief reflections on “contemplation, going out and formation,” enriched by concrete and effective experiences and actions in the field of bioethics and politics, and of social inclusion.

Also in Paraguay, the light of the Gospel took flesh in its culture, in such a way that it became a lifestyle of its inhabitants. And here, the roots of its inhabitants, the Guarani people, are still strong. They were the most numerous among the 20 aborigines who lived in this land for more than 5,000 years, as recent discoveries have confirmed. This naturally communitarian people lived in harmony with nature and possessed a highly marked sense of the sacredness and dignity of the human person. Diana Durán professor and scholar in History, summarised the wealth of the Guarani people’s ancestral values and made herself a spokesman for the Focolari’s proposal to rediscover these values, after centuries of oppression and contempt, and proposed them as the antidote to the anti-values threatening society today.

A huge contribution came from the Synod on the Family that encouraged all to stand by others in a concrete way, to heal their wounds and relaunch the family, the pillar of Paraguayan society, still robust but increasingly undermined.

2014Paraguay50-3The conferment of the “Art of Dialogue” prize, after online polls, was awarded to Mons. Adalberto Martínez Flores, for his promotions of the Multisectarian Coordinating Table of the San Pedro provinces. The multisectarian service was created through his initiative in 2010, amid a situation of great strife that beset society. Thanks to this initiative still underway, and which convoked landowners, entrepreneurs, landless farmers and social parties, important improvements were achieved in the social sector as well as in the weaker brackets.

The Focolari communities spread throughout the land recounted their experiences and actions: living a life of solidarity, especially in situations of suffering.

The youth and the kids. The music band was able to contaminate all with enthusiasm, while the kids of the Focolari, incredible examples of going against the “have-all here and now” attitude were the protagonists of experience-sharing moments with a hundred of their peers.

Lastly, the little ones, the Gen 4, conquered all with the simplicity of their evangelical life.

Seeing life spread and grow always takes us by surprise. The first followers of Chiara lubich’s ideal of unity in Paraguay can say that for 50 years they have witnessed the birth and development of dynamic Christian communities, with the typical joys and pains of a growing family.

The challenges remain, but when there is unity, nothing seems impossible.


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Turkey: What Pope Francis has left us Tue, 02 Dec 2014 09:39:25 +0000 20121202-02It is true that the Holy Spirit brings forth different charisms in the Church, which at first glance, may seem to create disorder. Under his guidance, however, they constitute an immense richness, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity. Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity.”

These words that Pope Francis spoke at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit of Istanbul in front of thousands of the faithful from diverse Rites of the Roman Catholic Church, produced great joy in all of us. Even more, they confirmed our conviction that the presence of the Focolare Movement in this land, although a small presence, has every reason to continue the journey begun many years ago when, in 1967, the focolare first came to Istanbul at the explicit request of Patriarch Athenagoras.

But how did we spend these days? With a lot of joy and emotion! We were quite involved in the preparations both in the Catholic Church and, at the request of the Orthodox Patriarchate, collaborating with the press. Thanks to the close relationship we have with Patriarch Bartholomew, we were able to personally express to him our desire to accompany him with our prayers. And we were direct witnesses of his growing joy, his love for Pope Francis and his passion for unity!

Two focolarine were in charge of the Holy Father’s lodgings and attended his private Mass on Sunday morning. Along with the welcome from the Movement in Turkey, we also presented the Pope with greeting cards and gifts from some of our Muslim friends. Then we attended Mass at the Cathedral (where a focolarino priest concelebrated) and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning at the Fanar.

The message of brotherhood and unity at all levels which Pope Francis leaves to Turkey, hits upon an underlying question of this land as the Gateway between East and West, and of the composition of its population. Undoubtedly, however, his message is primarily an ecumenical one, as he demonstrated at the ecumenical prayer service in the Patriarchal Church of St George where he asked the Patriarch and the whole Church of Constantinople to “bless me and the Church of Rome.”

And it is precisely within the context of this ecumenical scenario between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of recent years, at times marked by weariness and apparent immobility, that the Focolare Movement finds a place in these lands.

20121202-01We should say that we are the beneficiaries of a privileged relationship with the Patriarch and with many Metropolitans, which we inherit from what was sown by Chiara Lubich during her visits to Istanbul. However, our relationships of simple and sincere communion are not limited to the hierarchy, but interweave with many sisters and brothers of the Orthodox Church.

In light of what has taken place during these days it seems that an unequivocal sign has been given by the two religious leaders: to push forward on the path towards unity and not to succumb to the effort it will take, and to accept the challenges in order to together offer answers and solutions that are required today. The Pope and the Patriarch have proven that they are beyond, although realistically. This was demonstrated in all they did and said, beginning with their joint declaration.

During the return flight Pope Francis strongly reiterated that in this journey towards unity, only what “is of the Holy Spirit is correct, because He is [a] surprise; He is creative.” this mandate is both joyous and liberating, indicating a path that is clear: to be open, attentive to the signs that the Spirit will place within our reach; to use imagination, personal and group strengths; to take advantage of every opportunity that is offered in the complex and at times difficult context in which we live, so that He can act.

Source: Focolare Turkey


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In Cyprus, the presentation of Chiara Lubich’s writings in Greek Sat, 29 Nov 2014 05:00:13 +0000

20141129Cipro2«Knowing how to lose» is a “shocking absurdity.” This was how Archimandrite Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Kyrenia, defined the title of one of the first volumes of Chiara Lubich translated into Greek, and presented to the public in Nicosia, last 31 October. Shocking and perplexing because «in life we all want to win, but in effect the life of a Christian is full of paradoxes, martyrdom and testimonials. Chiara manages, with simple words to explore this mystery and help us to live it in our daily lives.» The Metropolitan of Kyrenia sponsored the soiree for the book’s presentation, during which the Catholic-Maronite Archbishop Youssef Soueif and Fr. Dimostenis, Orthodox priest, also spoke. The Italian Ambassador to Cyprus, Guido Cerboni, was one of the 80 participants.

In their speeches, the Metropolitan and the Archbishop expressed their great joy in taking this occasion to present Cypriot branch of the Focolare Movement in a more official manner,. This joy was shared by many others who had already known the Focolari for years. Retracing the historical developments of the encounter between Pope Paul and Athenagoras revived in all, a new awareness of the path undertaken by the Christian Churches towards a visible unity.

20141129Cipro1«Chiara’s message is an encouragement to the world which tends to withdraw into itself, Archbishop Youssef Soueif stressed. She calls attention to a unity which strengthens the determination to open up to one another… for us here in Cyprus, the appeal to unity is a common responsibility.» And in a personal conversation, concluded the evening saying, «Your charism brings an internal attitude of going towards the others, a dialogue which we urgently need today, here in the Middle East.» He considered this encounter a symbolic step towards communion between the two churches: «we really need events like this!»

Florence Gillet gave a much appreciated speech on the close relationship between the thoughts of Chiara Lubich and the valuable teachings of the Fathers of the Eastern Church.

A particularly touching moment occurred when Lina, a Cypriot who for many years has lead the small Focolare community on the Island, related her experience. Through the charism of unity, she rediscovered God who is love and a Father, and this pushed her to deepen her knowledge of her Greek-Orthodox Church, and return to the sacraments. “By living the Gospel I found a new relationship with the Fathers of the Church and their teachings, which I knew little about. But I found myself experiencing what St. John Chrysostom says: “When I see my brother, I see my God.”

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Pope Francis urges the ecclesiastical movements:“Keep going, be always on the move!” Wed, 26 Nov 2014 05:00:42 +0000

2014StazioneTermini“I wish to have that same joy I see in your eyes,” Daniela of the New Horizon Community said, on the night she overcame her fear and went to the train station. That boy who had tried to commit suicide three times, became the turning point of her life.

Stories like this are embedded deeply in the hearts of the 300 representatives of 100 movements and new communities from 40 countries, gathered in Rome from 20 to 22 November for their Third World Meeting on the theme: “The joy of the Gospel: missionary joy.”

Organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCPL) in response to Pope Francis’s call to conversion, the appointment aims to be a continuation of the meetings promoted by John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2006.

Due to the sudden and unexpected explosion of new ecclesiastical realities in recent years, Card. Rylko, President of the PCPL, recalled in his opening speech that the Church considers this fact “a timely answer of the Holy Spirit in the difficult challenge of evangelisation in contemporary society.” Also Pope Francis stressed that the new charisms are “gifts of the Spirit embedded in the Church and drawn towards Christ, the centre to where they are channelled to gain momentum in their missionary drive.”

2014CongressoMovEcclesialiOverwhelming experiences have interwoven with rich and varied in-depth considerations of doctrines that aim to deepen the crucial parts of the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, which is the magna charta of the meeting.

The themes discussed? Topics ranged from ecclesiastical renewal that springs from personal renewal, communion between movements (joining forces so as not to disperse single efforts), enhancing the feminine gift of warmth in evangelisation.

Utmost focus on interpreting the “signs of the times” that call for new answers to new issues. These three days have gapped differences and closed mentalities: in a growing atmosphere of brotherhood among the representatives of movements against a background of more than 50 years and the new communities that have just recently gained international ground. A big group of bishops and priests attended, and mingled with the laity in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Each of them was eager to know about the mutual experiences, and in the words of one of the participants, to “learn to discern the voice of the Spirit today, who incites all to go out and announce God’s love for each person.” The delegation representing the Focolari movement, along with Maria Voce, and newly elected Co-President Jesús Morán and outgoing Co-President Giancarlo Faletti, was composed of Anna Pelli, Severin Schmidt, Gisela Lauber and Marta Chierico.

2014FrancescoMovEcclesiali“A meeting of real, profound communion, where we were all brothers and sisters.” This is how Maria Voce defined it in an interview given to “and it is emphasized even more if we think of our beginnings in 1998.” “When we went to the Pope – she continues – we felt his joy of having been able to experience this communion. After all this was the gift we wanted to bring to him.” What new steps are opening up for the Movement? For Maria Voce there are two possible paths to be explored. They are the openness “towards the Movements of other non-Catholic Churches, because they have very strong experiences of people who live the Gospel like us”; and the “much deeper communion between laity and clergy.” “Thus we shouldn’t separate the ecclesial part from the lay part in the various Movements and not even in the Movements as a whole.” A going outwards that would highlight “a more vital unity, between the shepherd and his flock.”

Every moment was a good opportunity to bond: coffee break, lunch or dinnertime. Street missions, communities for drug addicts, evangelisation in the most remote places of the planet, prayer and work, caring for the elderly and disabled, and youth involvement in various scenarios: in Philadelphia, Kansas, Philippines, Ecuador, Korea, Mexico, Rome, and Palermo. The intense and continual dialogue culminated in the meeting with Pope Francis: «You have already brought many fruits to the Church and the entire world, but with the help of the Holy Spirit you can reap more and greater results,” he affirmed in his speech. «To reach ecclesiastical maturity, keep your charism alive, respect the liberty of people and always try to create communion,» he summarized, in entrusting to all the present a new target, and lastly: «Go forward: keep moving … Don’t ever stop! Be always on the move!»

20141122Francesco-JMoran«Since it was the first time that I was participating in a meeting of this kind, for me this experience was truly extraordinary – affirms Jesús Morán. I enjoyed a special communion with many movements and communities in this kairos or extraordinary opportune moment of God that the Church is living with the gift of Pope Francis. In this regard, I experienced with new force his appeal to missionary conversion, which challenges all the charisms and leads them to reach a maturity worthy of the times (leaving aside every temptation of self-centredness) and a determination anchored in the freshness of the charism.»

«A surplus of ecclesiality and social commitment» is another need perceived by Morán. «In this sense – he concludes – we must strive towards a truly “Trinitarian” thought that may characterize our communion in a deeper way. It’s no longer enough to have any kind of cordial collaboration but to live one in the other, to strengthen and enrich one another in order to go outwards and take up the sufferings of humanity together.»

Other news on:

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New paths for the Ecclesial Movements Wed, 26 Nov 2014 04:26:32 +0000

20141123Francesco-MariaVoce«Any spontaneous impression on what you have lived these days? It was a meeting of real, profound communion. This was emphasized even more if we think of our beginnings. In 1998 at St. Peter’s square, Pope John Paul II almost had to ask the Movements to agree amongst themselves, to love each other, to get to know and esteem each other and to collaborate. Now we have reached the point that we no longer really notice to which Movement we belong. There was so much fraternity among all.

It was wonderful to see the recently born Movements going to the older Movements, not to be examined but to ask for their help, their thought and even their judgement on their works, to see together how to bring things ahead. The older Movements going to the newer Movements, the last born, not so much to see whether they are functioning, if all was going well and so on, but to rejoice that a new life had been born. Thus it was a full celebration of all their fruits and experiencing this being united in the Church. I thought it was really a very important step, a real communion and fraternity, where we were all brothers and sisters, older and younger but all brothers and sisters.

When we then went together to the Pope, he understood this aspect and he even expressed it in his talk; we felt his joy of having been able to participate and experience this communion that there had been among us.

After all, this was the gift we wanted to bring to him: this communion, and he strongly highlighted it in his talk, inviting us to bring it ahead and defining communion itself as the seal of the Holy Spirit. Thus it was a confirmation and a strong encouragement to go ahead in this direction. Then the Pope returned to the topic of going outwards, not to remain in our own circle. This is a fundamental idea that is in all his talks.

So I asked myself: what could this mean for us as Movements? We have to discover how to take this new step. Certainly, there should always be more communion with the Church. However, precisely because we have reached this profound unity among Movements, perhaps God is now asking us to expand more this going out towards the Movements of other non-Catholic Churches. They also have very strong experiences of people who live the Gospel like us and who bear witness to this life. We should get to know them too, and opening ourselves more could contribute to a vaster communion (why not?) as well as drawing closer to the moment of unity among all Christians.

This could perhaps be a path that should still be opened.

Another thing I would like to emphasize is this: going out towards a more vital unity between the “shepherd” and the “flock”, as much as possible. There were, in fact, many pastors, bishops and priests present, belonging to Movements and not. I think that the going outwards that God is asking of us now is to bring about a much deeper communion between laity and clergy, with the clergy that belongs to the Movements, who therefore are already strongly united to their own Movement, but perhaps not yet among all the clergy of all the Movements. I think God is also asking us to look for more suitable forms, thus we shouldn’t separate the ecclesial part from the lay part in various Movements and not even in the Movements as a whole.»

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Interreligious Symposium in Rabat Mon, 24 Nov 2014 05:00:32 +0000


 «To create a network of women, going beyond the diversity of religion and culture; to make an in-depth study of the sacred texts so as to regain the place of the woman in today’s society; and to promote interreligious dialogue with a more human dimension»; here are some of the conclusions of the International Symposium that took place last November 12 and 13, in Rabat, the capital of Morocco.

Organized by the Centre for Women’s Studies in Islam, affiliated with the Moroccan Council of Ulama, the meeting took place within the framework of the Strategic Dialogue between Morocco and the United Staes under the patronage of King Mohammed VI.

Around a hundred experts were present coming from 25 nations, the majority of whome were Muslim, but there were also some Christians and Jews, all of them scholars and involved in the juridical field and in organizations working for women’s rights.

The meeting, entitled “Women at the heart of the monotheisms: a pluralist history”, tackled the important contribution of women in interreligious dialogue, where often their voice has remained marginilized.

The meeting started with a presentation of the role of the woman in the history of the three monotheistic religions. And therefore, the importance of starting from the sacred texts was underlined instead of the logics of the split, with the objective of finding once more the dignity of the woman, aiming for a greater equality between man and woman, both on the spiritual, as well as moral and social levels. From this point, the correct interpretation of the texts on the female person was seen as necessary since it was often conditioned by the customs of the times and by other factors: political, economical and social.


Christina Lee, co-responsible for interreligious dialogue of the Focolare Movement, presented the experience, in interreligious dialogue, of the Focolare Movement founded by a woman, Chiara Lubich. She spoke of the “feminine genius” – as John Paul II defined it – which is the ability of women to live for others, to take care of the others and to connect relationships among people. This vision was appreciated for its depth, for its spirituality and for its future prospects.

There were other important interventions on the various forms of dialogue being carried out by women of today with their difficulties, hopes and testimonies. Professor Aicha Hajjami of Morocco asked why in many Islamic nations unjust laws towards women still exist. «It is a situation that calls for a profound reflection – she added – on how to be able to modify such laws with values supported by Islam». Yolande Iliano, president of the Religions for Peace Europe, gave her testimony on how feminine sensitivity gives rise to collective interreligious involvement on a social and political level.

The presence of the youth was not lacking with their experiences and expectations, that highlighted the crucial role that the woman plays in building the unity of the human family. Just as Prof. Asma Lamrabet, diretor of the Study Center, affirmed «the symposium was already a reality and a challenge, and no longer just a dream».


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Korea: The Mystery of Life Wed, 19 Nov 2014 05:00:29 +0000 geriatric_nursingCielo Lee, Young-Hee is a visiting nurse for a hospital in Seoul (Korea). The percentage of suicides among people over 80 is the highest in the world. “After reading some statistics, I began working in prevention, since 80% of my patients are over 80.” Following one negative experience with a deeply depressed patient, Cielo Lee decided to organise a course on the prevention of suicide, for 100 geriatric workers and 30 parish volunteers. “While visiting 40 patients each week with one of my colleagues we evaluated their mood and state of mind according to national health standards. Based on those results we decided to make twice-a-week visits to the 10 patients who were most at risk.”

The Gatekeeper Project is a public service promoted by the government in Seoul. It operates in all the quarters of the capital for the prevention of suicides, and in close collaboration with local health services. “In this project,” Cielo Lee explains, “we also train the elderly as gate-keepers. These same-age men and women accompany the nurses visiting patients and offer helpful health advice.”

Because of my desire to protect the life of even just one person, at work I shared my intentions with a religious sister, the head nurse. Then sixty of my nurse colleagues decided to attend the suicide prevention training.”

One patient has suffered with a serious illness for 10 years: “When I went to his home,” she says “before going in I would pray, and I tried to listen deeply to everything he had to say. For a while now, this patient has returned to prayer and is becoming more stable.”

A friend was suffering from insomnia after the death of her eldest son. She was only able to sleep with the help of sedatives. But after attending the course she has begun to care for an elderly neighbour with no family. Now she is able to sleep without the help of medication, and she is grateful that she can do something for other people.

“One day the phone rang,” Cielo Lee recounts. “It was the mental health centre that I work with. The person from the centre told me that the Mayor of Seoul would be giving a prize to one person from each quarter and that I had been unanimously chosen! The next day I received a additional prize from the director of the hospital.”

Members from the Focolare Movement in Seoul who attended the course wrote that it was “a precious opportunity for deepening our awareness of the mystery of life, and for going towards the existential peripheries.”

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New Zealand: A peace that is gentle and strong, like the Kowhai Tue, 11 Nov 2014 05:10:25 +0000
L’arcivescovo John Dew di Wellington

We are in New Zealand, in the heart of Wellington, capital of a land that has opened its arms to many peoples. Urged by the news of wars in Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine and Central Africa; the growing fear of Ebola; and the Pope’s many appeals for peace, some young people from the Focolare Movement in New Zealand felt the need to gather in a public place and voice their longing for peace.

The Archbishop of Wellington, Most Rev. John Dew, contributed personally to the evening event, which included songs, prayers and testimonies. There was also a witness offered by  two young women from Iraq who had met in New Zealand and were followed by their families to that land: Sendirella, a Catholic, and Ayssar, a Muslim. They spoke about what had united them in their homeland. They had first met at the home of a common friend and from there a friendship began that led them to share their dreams, studies and travel. Sendirella said “we’re different,” but Aysser quickly added, “but we are the same.” They said that for many people religion is the great difference, perhaps even the great obstacle, but it was never a problem for them; on the contrary, it drew them closer. “In the religion of one,” said Sendrella, “we’ve always recognised elements of the religion of the other.”

Sendirella e Ayssar

Then, they talked about their country. Today’s Iraq is associated with war, fleeing minorities and torture, but the Iraq of their parents was one where your neighbour could be a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Yazidi; “an Iraq,” Ayssar said, “where the difference of religion was always accepted as a fact, not a problem.” Now that Iraq seems so far away. “They’ve told us that peace is impossible,” Sendirella continued: “But we know that peace is not merely a word in a constitution, it’s not some particular form of government, nor air-raids meant to enforce peace. We know that that peace lies in the daily observance of our values, that it’s something that comes from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.”

20141111-01bA young university student called Kathleen told how she felt urged to ask forgiveness following a misunderstanding among the students with whom she shared a flat. Before, that would have been a very difficult and demanding thing for her to do, but as it turned out, it opened the door to a new and better relationship with the other girls.

20141111-02The evening prayer concluded with an invitation to become builders of peace, sealing that commitment with the knotting of a white ribbon to a small Kowhai tree. This tree with a Maori name originated in New Zealand. It has many medicinal qualities and several species of birds are nourished by its rich nectar. With delicate branches the Kowhai is a strong tree that can reach heights of 20 metres. It was a perfect symbol of the humble but powerful cry for peace that went forth from those young people on that night of prayer.

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