Politics of Unity – utopia or real opportunity?

With a variety of speakers, a strong and varied attendance, and interactive sessions, the afternoon on a ‘Politics of Unity’ was something new and special for us. The meeting took place in Glasgow, 6 October and it was organised by the Focolare Community in Scotland.

Our focus was on politics and life in society rather than on parties or government specifically. It was wonderful and refreshing to see so many people who feel passionately about this wider sense of ‘politics’ and ‘civic activism’. The meeting was an opportunity to remind ourselves that meaningful dialogue, even in politics, is possible but that it it requires active listening skills, an ability to empty ourselves and a willingness to treat the other party or different point of view as our own. Although it is not easy, it is a journey worth embarking on!

Simple things made the event special. The Focolare house was nicely prepared and chairs arranged to make the best use of limited space. Everyone felt valued and welcomed with tea, coffee, cakes and a really family atmosphere. People who attended were from different ethnic, cultural and faith backgrounds.

Michal Siewniak, originally from Poland and living in the UK for the past 13 years, opened the afternoon with a presentation about his ‘civic journey’ in Britain. Michal spoke about the role of the media in today’s society, his experience of being an active member of his local community as well as his time as a Local Councillor – all through the lens of unity.

Matt Driver, facilitated the whole afternoon session and with the other speaker, helped create a very accessible environment in which each point of view was valued and listened to. We were able to break down barriers by running several interactive sessions which helped people to share, ask questions and overall to build a real sense of ‘political family’.

With a reflection from Chiara, group discussions, a panel session and questions and answers, the event was both varied and very active. Brian McGinley, South Ayrshire Councillor, Gillian Morgan, Community Councillor and Joe Driver, Politics Student shared their experiences and their own ‘calling’ to serve the community and build unity where they are. All of us had a glimpse of Chiara’s vision on Politics: the ‘love of all loves’… the ‘stem of a flower which supports and nourishes the constant budding of petals in the community’ (‘The Spirit of Fraternity in Politics‘, Innsbruck 2001). Chiara also said in her video that politics is a vocation. She always believed that each political party was born as a result of a social need.

The time literally flew. It was great to see so many people staying afterwards and wanting to continue our conversation on so many topics; from Scottish Independence, Brexit to tuition fees and many more.

In this period of tension, when it seems that people are more divided than united, when we often lose the ability to listen to each other, the overarching impressions was that this  initiative was much needed and many commented that they felt uplifted and invigorated. We have received many messages from participants, one of them said: “Thank you so much for yesterday’s gathering. We really enjoyed it and went home with our heads buzzing with thoughts!”.

This was the second such event this year in Great Britain. If you’d like to run something similar locally, feel free to contact Michał.

By: Michal Siewniak, Yoly Matro and Matt Driver