Focolare Movement » People & Places Official International Website Sat, 31 Jan 2015 15:02:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Buddhist monk who preaches universal brotherhood Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:00:57 +0000
Natalia Dallapiccola, Peppuccio Zanghì, Luce Ardente

«When Luce Ardente started to bear witness to the Ideal of unity among the Buddhist monks, Giuseppe Maria Zanghì, or Peppuccio as many called him, and who passed away a few days ago, said that he was “a new St. Paul for Buddhism”.

Knowing how difficult it is for a monk to take part in a Christian and foreign movement, I had doubts about how this affirmation could concretely come about. Now, after precisely 20 years, I must say that those words are coming true.

It all began in 1995, when a Buddhist monk set foot for the very first time in the centre of the Focolare Movement: his name then was, Phramaha Thongrattana Thavorn. He had arrived in Rome to accompany one of his disciples, Somjit, who, for a short period before his marriage, was living an experience of monastery life, in line with tradition of all Buddhist youths. On that occasion, Phramaha Thongrattana Thavorn, translated as ‘fine gold,’ met Chiara Lubich and was very impressed. She was also struck by him, and on his request, gave him a new name: Luce Ardente (Ardent Light).

In all those years of acquaintance I had never noted in him, such a impelling force and enthusiasm as in those days, in announcing universal brotherhood, “mother Chiara’s ideal” (as he still calls her today). Today, while participating in an important ceremony as Luce Ardente’s guest, before the 120 monks and the highest Buddhist authorities of the region, he took the floor to spontaneously but very clearly give a testimonial of his experience with Chiara Lubich and the Focolare, and openly declared that he is a member of Chiara’s huge family diffused in more than 120 counties with millions of members.

Unperturbed, the monks listened: some were amused, others interested, and a few were perplexed as would be expected in any “religious community.” Before, during and after the ceremony Luce Ardente, often breaking the rules, greeted those present one by one, manifesting great respect and affection towards the elderly monks.

20150130LuceArdenteLButoriLuce Ardente continues to repeat even now: “The time has come for me to tell everyone how much good Mother Chiara has done to my life as a monk. I feel that she continues to give me an interior impulse and strength to bring the ideal of brotherhood to all.”

The death of Peppuccio – who did so much for interreligious dialogue – and the opening of the cause for the beatification of Chiara, are strong and important moments not only for us Christians but for all the members of the Movement.

The day after Chiara passed from earthly life to heaven, on 14 March 2008, Luce Ardente remarked: “Chiara no longer pertains only to you Christians, but she and her ideal are now a legacy for all of humanity.” In these really special days, these facts testify that Peppuccio’s words are becoming a reality before our eyes.

While he participated via live streaming in the opening ceremony of the cause for the beatification of Chiara Lubich, Luce Ardente commented: “Now, more than ever, we must testify to the sanctity of Chiara together.”


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From the Philippines: An unforgettable experience! Wed, 21 Jan 2015 06:00:15 +0000 20150121-03The images of the recent trip of the Pope to Sri Lanka, first, and then to the Philippines, after, have circled the globe. His talks, gestures, phrases, were relaunched by many newspapers in numerous languages and by the social networks that have become powerful multipliers of his message of “mercy and compassion”, the central themes chosen by him for this historical trip.

«We made history again – they wrote us from Manila – surpassing the biggest gathering recorded in history in the inforgettable World Youth Day of 1995 with John Paul II. In fact, in the mass in Luneta Park, the almost 7 million present showed once more their faith in and love for the Holy Father».

On the second day, 40,000 participants at the meeting with the families at the Mall of Asia, along Manila Bay. Francis encouraged the Filipino families to “serve as sanctuaries where life is respected” and to proclaim the sacredness of life from birth to death.

«I expected a celebrity – Nidj, a youth of the Focolare said– instead, I saw a “servant”. I felt pure, simple, and authentic love as he spoke. He managed to stay humble and be himself in spite of all the attention directed towards him».

And Loli Funk: «There has been much wisdom like a blinding light with the novelty of the call to live an authentic Christian life but one does not even have to be a Catholic to appreciate his messages: they hit us right into the heart of where it hurts and touches us the most. If we are a family, a community that looks after one another, but each one integrally whole, we have better chances of making it».

Romé Vital: «When Pope Francis spoke to the young people yesterday at the University of Santo Tomas, he urged us to live in reciprocity not only to give and give but also to allow ourselves to receive love from God and from others. This is something new to highlight the value of reciprocity in our Christian life».

And still more, Jan Co Chua: «Reflecting on the events with Pope Francis these days, I feel like the apostles on the road to Emmaus… They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24,32)».

The most moving part of his trip was the visit to the survivors of the zones struck by typhoons, in Tacloban. «we are still in the euphoria of joy brought to us by the historical visit if our Holy Father Pope Francis», the members of the local community of the Focolare wrote to us.

20150121-01«Francisc is the first Pope to come and visit Tacloban. His visit made us feel the maternal love of God through the Church. We felt understood, consoled, after having suffered so much in the past. We were surprised by his spontaneity in loving: his decision, inspite of the typhoon, to celebrate the mass out in the open with winds that blew strongly. We were touched by his homily, by his humility, when he said that he had no words to say in front of these sufferings and when he asked our forgiveness since he arrived a little bit late …».

The community of the Focolare was fully involved in the preparations: «The local Church entrusted to us the preparation of the venue where the mass would be celebrated: the vast open field that could contain 120 thousand people, In front of this very demanding task we asked the help of adherents, sympathizers, friends, relatives, also coming from the other provinces, and we organized a plan which we had prepared for the past three months».

Von, confessed that for many years now he had not been going to mass: «When I was invited to work for the event, I put all my efforts into it. I found my faith once again and also the family of the Focolare».

Some women Volunteers who were in charge of organizing the places for the people, wrote us: «We could have chosen the best places for us to be able to see the Pope. But we chose the farthest places so as to give way to the others. But in the end we were able to greet the Pope up close just the same!».

20150121-02The young Gen worked in the sector of crowd control: «We tried to make love reign above everything else: giving preference to the elderly, to those who had come from faraway (walking for many kilometers) … We were very moved by the words of the Holy Father. We greeted him up close and he smiled at us. What a great joy we felt at this encounter with him!».

«The visit of Pope Francis – they concluded – was a unique experience: to be there with all the people, working together for 24 hours under the rain, the strong wind and many other discomforts. His words and the experience we lived will never be erased from our heart!».

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Nigeria, a journey among the refugees of Yola Tue, 20 Jan 2015 06:00:17 +0000 20150120-01

According to the United nations, there are 700 thousand people who are forced to leave their homes due to the violence in the northeastern states of Nigeria. Precisely during the days of the massacre in Paris, Nigeria was again in the news, with the criminal escalations in the State of Borno due to the actions of the extremist group of Boko Haram. They even spoke of kamikaze children who were made to explode in two markets of the Country. The population is defenseless, while contradicting politcal analyses are given and very few reveal the heavy economic interests linked to the exploitation of the petroleum resources of the country. There is great expectations for the presidential elections in February.

In Nigeria the Focolare Movement is present with two centers, one in Onitsha (in the south of the Country) and one in Abuja, the capital: «After the first trip that we made to meet the people who were displaced by the internal warfare, we realized what the true situation is: the misery, diseases, hunger, lack of clothing, lack of shelter but especially the children with no hope for a future», George and Ruth, the persons responsible for the Movement in that African nation wrote to us. And so they organized a second trip, during the Christmas season inviting their friends, relatives, co-workers to join in: «We truly experienced the generosity of our people, in Focolare all kinds of God’s bounty arrived: money, food, clothes, medicines. We even received a car with a driver who was an expert and knew where to pass to avoid the dangerous areas». Three of us went on the trip: a focolarina who is a nurse, another person and the driver. Bearing many gifts «so as to bring the joy of Christmas to those people who more than anyone else resembled the Baby Jesus who did not even have a suitable place to be born».

The situation was precarious: the medicines were not enough for their many needs: «I am a professional nurse – Imma shared – I treated hundreds and hundreds of sick people: malnutrition, anemia, malaria and various illnesses. Then we helped the bishop to distribute food to more than 5000 refugees. It is a very painful situation, and everyday other refugees arrive».

«May this be the year of the Yes», Maria Voce wished for us in 2015, «a yes that is repeated an infinite number of times: yes to God who asks us for something unforseen, yes to that neighbour who needs our concrete love , yes to an unexpected suffering, yes to Jesus who is waiting to be welcomed by us in humanity, transforming suffering into joy, into life and resurrection».

But what does this mean in situations of darkness, that seem to be without hope, like in Nigeria? «For us this is the everyday reality – Ruth and George continue – in the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves in our Country. There are so many sources of Evil. In front of this situation we cannot remain indifferent. When we arrived there, where the people are suffering the most, we touched concretely that which Jesus repeats to us even today: “you did it to me”».

And, on behalf of the whole Focolare community of Nigeria, they would like to convey to us their gratitude for the prayers and support that has reached them in many ways, «above all in this moment, and also before and after the presidential and legislative elections».





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Is dialogue necessary? Sun, 18 Jan 2015 06:30:35 +0000 PoliziaParigi

One asks today, after the murderous attacks in Paris and the massacres in Nigeria and Pakistan, whether there is need for dialogue between people of different religions and cultures.

“I beg to reverse the question”, Maria Voce says, and continues to ask: “Can we live without dialogue in a globilized world?” While speaking about the increase in the number of people who choose to emigrate and about entire populations who are forced to flee because of persecution,“uprooted from their environment and their future” and forced to live with others of different races, cultures, opinions and religions, the president of the Focolare Movement quotes the pressing question of Western Countries: how does one live with these people? “The answer is clear”, she affirms, “We either dialogue or fight with one another. But conflicts lead to destruction of both residents and immigrants, while openness and dialogue create life and lead to life”.

“I have noted this during my trips to places in the Middle East, Africa and Asia where dramatic situations are present”, she explains.“The brave commitment to dialogue is lived by children in their schools, by families in their neighbourhoods and by many people in their workplaces”.

154142She reminds that the most effective dialogue is the one “built on the sharing of everyday life”, which is “not generated through an immediate confrontation of ideas” but “ through getting to know the other person – and not his religion – to be able to discover the bond of brotherhood that binds all human beings”. Maria Voce is convinced that diversity does not necessarily cause opposition, but that it can be a source of mutual enrichment. And we truly enrich one another, because God is generous and he bestows his gifts on all men, whatever religion they belong to”. She reaffirms,“When we discover this, we all become richer and freer in our mutual relationship”.

She hints at what Pope Francis is manifesting through “his words and attitudes, emphasizing warmth, empathy, listening fully to others” . And “equally valuable is the Pope’s indication not to make concessions on our identity as Christians in order to prepare ourselves for this dialogue, because we can dialogue only if we are deeply and authentically Christian”.

In her conclusion, MariaVoce states “ A Christian or a Muslim become better persons when they walk on the road of dialogue and discover that they can progress together, and that this progress leads to common initiatives, starting from peace, that contribute towards the benefit of humanity”.

Read the full text of the declaration



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Thailand has a new cardinal Tue, 13 Jan 2015 07:04:03 +0000 20150113-02What is a cardinal and what does he do? These are questions the common folk,, mostly Buddhists may ask, upon hearing about the naming of Bangkok’s Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij. He is the second Thai Cardinal after Michael Michai Kitbunchu, instated more than 30 years ago in 1983. Also other two new Asian Cardinals: Mons. Charles Bo of Myanmar and Mons. Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon from Vietnam will be named in the next consistory set for 14 February.

To respond to the interest aroused by the nomination, the local Church promoted a press conference that gathered about 30 journalists and local Thai media operators, including some well known Asian newspapers.

One of the most frequent questions the new Cardinal had to answer was: “Does this nomination reflect the Catholic Church’s desire to diffuse Christianity more in Thailand?” Thirty years ago in fact, there were rumours diffused by a group of Buddhist fundamentalists, of a Vatican “conspiracy” to undermine Thai Buddhism. This is an issue which no one believes any longer. The Thai people are renowned for their tolerance and friendliness. Christianity is not deterred, even if the Christians constitute less than 1% of the population.

Mons. Kriengsak of Bangkok thinks that with these nominees, Pope Francis wishes to underline the universality of the Church, and in answering the many questions of the Buddhist journalists, narrated with simplicity that God is Love, and took flesh in Jesus who brought the life of the Trinity on earth – and that mutual love makes us brothers and sisters. He also stressed that all religions hold common values, such as the “golden rule” (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you“) and continued by stating that the Catholic Church promotes dialogue in all fields and, particularly interreligious dialogue in Thailand. Those who know the new Cardinal well, are aware that he has a deep friendship with a good number of Buddhist monks, along with lay people, always open to followers of all faiths. We are surprised by the fact that the person who had sent us a copy of the Thai newspaper with the photo and promotion of Archbishop Kriengsak on the first page was precisely a famous monk of the Buddhist monastery at the outskirts of Bangkok! “Together - Archbishop. Kriengsak said – we work for the good of society, peace in the world and unity of humanity.” He invited all, whatever faith they profess, to pray daily for peace in the world, and observe a minute of silence at six every afternoon for this purpose.

20150113CardKriengsak2In answering the question on education for which the Thai Church is highly esteemed, he sustained that it has to be open to everyone, of all walks of life. He repeated Pope Francis’s appeal to “go out towards the outskirts of society,” citing the many charitable works the Church undertakes, highlighting the various initiatives to face a rather recent phenomenon: the flux of many refugees in Thailand. With regard to the challenges of the Church: “Secularism is a challenge for all religions. Also due to this, all religions have to cooperate to imbue society with positive values.” “The Church in our continent, though small, can give its contribution in promoting unity in Asia, in the perspective of a more united world.”

In answering the last question we posed on how this news is to be interpreted, he said that he was very surprised and had accepted the nomination to say yes to God’s will, entrusting himself to His grace, like Mary. He asked us to pray for him, confiding that he was counting on the spirituality of unity which he had embraced ever since he was a seminarian. He will keep his motto: “Verbum crucis dei virtus est”(The language of the Cross is the power of God).

C,B. Tay

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Argentina. A Special Encounter Between Gen 3 and Scouts Thu, 08 Jan 2015 06:00:21 +0000

20150107-03I discovered that I can live the Scout Promise at every moment.” “It was very beautiful to spend time together and realize that we’re living for the same goal.” “Thanks to everyone who came to this truly unique afternoon.” “Thanks to everyone, a super-ingenious project, filled with smiles and teachings! We have to continue this.”

These are but a few on-the-spot impressions given by youngsters as the sun began to set on one of the public squares in the Argentine city of Bahia Blanca where Scouts and Gen 3 (teenagers of the Focolare Movement) had gathered for an afternoon of getting to know one another.

20150107-02But perhaps what best describes the joyful event was a message posted on the social network by Clarita, a teenager who is both a Scout and a Gen 3. With her brother, Juanfra, and her mother, Rose, she was one of the main promoters of the event. Clarita writes: “Finally, the dream happened! We put together two movements who use different methods to accomplish the same goal: to be “always ready” to ‘do to others as we would have them do to us.’ Happy, that’s the best word to describe how I feel.”

The afternoon was an occasion for both Scouts and Gen 3 to learn, respect, be open and listen to others, but it was also an afternoon of many games, activities and laughter. Clarita continues: “Thank you to everyone who attended. I saw how the Gen 3 and the Scouts mix together so easily. Now my fellow Scouts know the Golden Rule, and will have another arrow in their bow to practice the Scout Law in their daily lives.” And the Gen 3 know the Scout’s motto: Be prepared, which will encourage their serving spirit.”

20150107-01This afternoon together was also an opportunity for the leaders of both movements. The Scout leaders responded to the proposal of doing something together, saying: “We put the adventure and the service, and you put the spirituality and the unity.” But, as time went by “us” and “you” gradually faded away, leaving all the space for “Us” where everyone felt actively involved in a single effort.

As a memento of the event everyone received a bookmark. On one side was written: Do to others as you would have them do to you” and, on the other side, “Leave the world better than you found it.”

That afternoon will not remain an isolated event. Now the experience will continue through the creation of a “solidarity business” at the service of the community. The united world makes way when we are walking together!

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Burkina Faso: Youth movements unite Mon, 05 Jan 2015 06:00:07 +0000

20150105-02“Mercy”, and that is forgiveness, which leads to peace, “for a new world”: this is the invitation to the youth of the diocese of Bobo-Dioulasso – the second largest city of the country – as a reflection for the coming year. Burkina Faso lives an important phase of transition, after the riots of last October, when the capital Ouagadougou had been hit by demonstrations of the opposition and civil society, so much so that there was talk of a ” Burkinabé Spring “.

And it is an experience of forgiveness that is offered by Fidèle during the day for young people on 7 December: while he was going around looking for work, he was convinced by a friend to pick some fruit from a tree for an old lady who was sick, thus arousing the anger of those who had misappropriated the tree. The story ends for Fidèle with a broken nose from a stick in the face. “The anger inside me grew as I pondered revenge. I was going home to treat the wound when I was approached by the boy who had hit me. He had his mother with him who was very upset. I did not want to give in, but then I remembered the words of the Gospel where Jesus says we must forgive 70 times 7 … The next day I bumped into him at the store and I greeted him first, showing that I had forgiven him. Since that day we became good friends.”

David and Laetitia, on behalf of the Youth for a United World of Bobo-Dioulasso, tell us about the initiative: “This year we decided to change our usual way of doing things in order to facilitate work with others. We got involved in coordinating the activities of the Youth Chaplaincy. Amazed by the previous experience of the Youth Festival, the leaders of the Chaplaincy asked us to organize a day of friendship among all the youth movements of the city, on the theme chosen for this year: “Young people, be merciful so as to build a new world. ‘”

20150105-01“The time was short,” they continue, “and the hardest thing was to work with people who have a different way of seeing things. The difficulties in agreeing things were not missing, especially when it got to drafting a program for the day; but our goal was primarily to establish unity among all, even at the expense of the quality of the organization. But the common desire to work together, to get to know each other, to have mutual esteem won out … And finally we got to the long awaited day. “

There were testimonies on forgiveness, including that of Fidèle, dancing, singing, “This day allowed us to get to know each other better. There have been many exchanges of contacts and we understood how the contribution of each one, however different, was necessary. We understood how the different movements are complementary and called to work together for the realization of unity, the same one that Jesus always teaches us. “

“This – they conclude – encourages us and gives us the desire to work together again. In a year’s time the next edition!”

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Peace: No longer slaves but brothers Thu, 01 Jan 2015 06:00:08 +0000

Francesco_immigranti_a“Today, due to an ever-increasing number of interconnections in today’s world that has made society powerfully aware of the common destiny of nations, slavery, an offence against human rights, has formally been abolished in the world. The right of every person to be free from slavery or oppression has been recognized in international human rights as an irrevocable norm. And yet, despite the fact that the international community has adopted numerous agreements to put an end to slavery in all its forms and undertaken various strategies to combat this phenomenon, still today millions of people – children, men and women of all ages – are deprived of freedom and forced to live in conditions similar to that of slavery,» Pope Francis wrote in his message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on 1 January, feast of the family.

And as he writes, he remembers all «the many men and women workers, also minors, who are enslaved in different sectors,» and also recalls “the living conditions of many migrants who suffer hunger, and are deprived of liberty, stripped of their possessions or physically and sexually abused. My thoughts go to those who are dominated by fear and insecurity upon reaching their destination after a difficult journey, and are at times detained in inhuman conditions.”

Mohamed comes from Mali and has passed through a shipwreck and a life of poverty and suffering. Today, he strongly desires to express his gratitude. This what Flavia Cerino, a lawyer, tells New City. “When he was just fifteen years old, Mohamed decided to leave: a long journey through the desert in Libya (prisons and abuse) and then, finally, Italy. The Mare Nostrum operations saved him from the shipwreck but on touching ground, he was immediately handcuffed: his co-travellers had identified him as one of those engaged in the human trafficking business, but in reality he was not involved. In fact, he had distributed some food and drinks on the boat because the real traffickers had threatened to throw him overboard if he did not do so. Since he was just an adolescent he was not sent to a real jail. The long wait for the hearing which would confirm his arrest, took place in a small and cramped room in the city Court, but many people were there to take care of him: the policemen were kind and the social workers took interest in his life, health, and family. For months nobody had given him so much attention. Usually he only received commands, not questions. And then, since one of the policemen spoke French, and he was able to thoroughly explain the real facts.”

The hearing to confirm his arrest ended well: he would be assigned to service in the community, and not to jail.

“He will not be free, but it was undoubtedly better than jail. The structure was pleasant, in a small sunny town further south. Mohamed managed to gain the respect and affection of all: he was always willing to help in the housework, ready to learn new words in Italian, loved soccer but also silence and solitude. After some months, the time came for him to appear before the Court: for him this meant a return to the past, the brutal experiences he wished to forget. Though time had passed, his memories were still there, also the beautiful ones. And at the end of the hearing, he had only one wish: to return to the last floor in those dark and gloomy rooms, only to say thanks to that policeman who spoke French and those kind social workers. He would remember them forever. Unfortunately, none of these people he knew were on duty. But his ‘thanks’, quite a rare event, will be passed on to them by their colleagues.”

“We know that God will ask each of us: “What have you done to your brother?» – Pope Francis concludes. “The globalisation of indifference weighs on the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, and calls out to us to become the architects of a globalisation of solidarity that can give them hope and new courage to undertake the journey through our time and bring along with them new prospects, a task which God has entrusted to us.”

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Syria: A long drawn out war Mon, 22 Dec 2014 06:00:55 +0000

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Ivory Coast: When solidarity is a risk Sun, 21 Dec 2014 05:00:52 +0000

04aBetween 2002 and 2006, a civil war was underway in the Ivory Coast, which went virtually unnoticed by Europe and the world. It was a political conflict over control for power. The Focolare Movement has had a presence in that country, in the capital city of Abidjan and in Man, since 1975.

When hostility broke out and Man became the target of the rebels, the western countries advised their co-nationals to evacuate immediately. The welcoming centre for foreigners was located in front of one of our centres, Mariapolis Victoria. That centre began to fill up with refugees, and so we decided, Africans and Europeans together, to stay on with the population. It was certainly a risky decision, but motivated by the desire to partake in the drama that was engulfing everyone.”

Then they began working together in welcoming the thousands of people who poured into the centre. The refugees belonged to different tribal groups and were Muslim, Christian and followers of traditional African religions. All were welcomed without distinction. The Focolare Movement offered temporary spaces where they could stay. Many of the refugees brought with them all they could carry.

20141221-02“Life within the compound, even amidst the difficulties caused by the war, continued as it was in the city, in peaceful and integrated coexistence of the diverse communities, not without some natural tensions. There was also a vast sharing of goods and basic needs (clothing, food and water). All doctors and nurses had fled, according to the government, and the only doctor remaining was one of us, who cared for the people without any discrimination, including rebels who controlled Man for a period of time. As soon as the government took control of the region, the majority of people left for the villages, but some remained behind.”

The Man experience highlights how a Focolare community responds in risky situations: “Firstly, the many years of people in the area who are trying to live the Gospel, has created an inter-ethnic community that offered a place of welcome and peace; the members of our community, acting because of a powerful spiritual motivation, decided to stay with the people and share their fate. That principle of fraternity garunteed that all were to be welcomed, without any type of discrimination. This created mutual trust, which allowed the thousands of people not only to survive, but even to share what they had with others. the trust that was generated among all, even the rebels, secured the possibility of saving other lives. In fact, one group of rebels risked their lives, escorting a special bus that brought children from a hospital which had fallen into the hands of some of their fellow-rebels, into an area controlled by the government. Thanks to everyone’s effort, a certain social cohesiveness was preserved.”

See also: Witnesses to Peace, New City Philippines


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