On the 24th of January 2002, Pope John Paul II convened the World Day of Peace in Assisi with leaders of the world’s great religions. Barely a year later, rumblings of war prevail over the voices for peace.
The eruption of festering violence in India amongst Christians, Hindus and Moslems, as reported in regular news items, is an example of this. In this context, Chiara Lubich’s trip in India, which began in Mumbai on the 4th of January, focussed on dialogue with cultural and social Hindu institutions. From this emerged the mysticism which pervades the Indian culture and the universal brotherhood embedded in its roots.
The meeting with the Swadhyaya Family organisation highlighted, to everyone’s surprise, the many elements shared by our two movements. The Swadhyaya Family is a vast Hindu movement with more than 8 million adherents, founded by Shri Pandurang Shastri Athavale, known as Dada-ji (teacher-older brother). His movement teaches that God resides in every human being and that the fulfilment of spiritual unity holds within it the solutions of all world problems.
The first contact with this movement came about at the World Day of Peace in Assisi at which only two women spoke: Didi Talwakar, daughter and spiritual heir of the founder of the Swadhyaya Family, and Chiara Lubich. This was followed by a meeting between them in Rocca di Papa, Rome, in which both made the discovery of the extraordinary parallels between the spirit of the Swadhyaya Family and the Focolare Movement. From this a profound spiritual friendship was born.
In Mumbai, there were two further important meetingswhich led to an intensification of the dialogue initiated two years ago when Chiara Lubich visited India for the first time. The first of these meetings was at Somaiya College, a tertiary institute with 25,000 students and over 30 faculties and departments – one of the Hindu institutions most committed to inter-religious dialogue. The second important meeting was at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a university level cultural centre which has one hundred centres in India and 15 abroad, founded to study the roots of Hindu culture and the means for developing it. This organisation numbers amongst its members Hindus, Moslems, Christians, Zoroastrians and Buddhists.
Chiara arrived in India on the 4th of January this year. Her first meeting was with Cardinal Dias, Archbishop of Mumbai, and with his predecessor, Cardinal Simon Pimenta, to begin her trip in full communion with the local Church. Then, upon the invitation of Cardinal Dias, on the 9th of January, Chiara had a meeting with the clergy, seminarians, men and women religious of the diocese, to share with them the charism of unity. On the 12th of January she spoke at the third gathering of ecclesial movements with the participation of 3,500 people representing sixteen movements and associations.
Following her meetings in Mumbai, Chiara Lubich returned to Rome, while those who had accompanied her on her trip continued on to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and to Delhi. A busy schedule of meetings was prepared in these cities with the Hindu world and with the local Church.