Fraternity in: Utopia or Necessity?

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Swiss Constitution in 1998, I was invited by the “Visions for the Future of Switzerland” Committee to speak right here in Bern on the Federal Day of Reflection.
It was an honor for me, an Italian, and therefore a foreigner in this country, to address such a distinguished assembly representative of all of Switzerland. It was indeed a joy for me to do so because I have loved Switzerland for decades, and I consider it to be my second homeland.
Likewise, it is a joy for me today to address you, men and women with various commitments in the field of politics. I would especially like to thank the group of politicians on the organizing committee for this day. After having promoted in March 2003, a very successful day gathering in Martigny, followed by various meetings on the local level, they wished to take advantage of the upcoming autumn session of the federal Houses to organize today’s meeting.

The subject I have been asked to address today is “Fraternity in Politics: Utopia or Necessity?”
My hope is that this talk may demonstrate the need for fraternity and the possibility of achieving it in politics.

These three: “liberty, equality and fraternity”, are almost a summary of the political agenda of the modern world, and express a deep intuition and lead us today to a profound reflection: what point have we reached in achieving these great aspirations?

The French Revolution produced these three principles but it certainly did not invent them. They had already begun their difficult journey through the centuries, above all through the Christian message which illuminated what was best in the ancient world and the heritage of Jewish revelation, bringing about an authentic revolution. The new humanism brought by Christ enabled people to live these principles to the full.
From that time on, and down through the centuries, the richness of these principles has been revealed through the works of men and women.
Liberty and equality have deeply influenced the political history of peoples leading to the enrichment of civilization and creating such conditions that the dignity of the human person could be expressed more and more.
Liberty and equality have become juridical principles and are applied every day as genuine political categories.

But if liberty only is emphasised, it can become the privilege of the strongest, as we well know. If equality only is emphasised, then, as history has shown, it can result in a mass collectivism. In reality, many peoples still do not benefit from the true meaning of liberty and equality.
How can these two, once acquired, be brought to fruition? How can the history of our countries and all humankind be put back on track towards their true destiny? We believe that the key lies in universal fraternity, in giving this the proper place among fundamental political categories.
Only if each of the three principles is given its proper importance can they give rise to a politics that can meet the challenges of today’s world.

Rarely has our planet experienced the suspicion, fear and even terror of our times. We just have to remember nine-eleven (September 11, 2001), and more recently, March 11, 2004, (in Madrid) without forgetting the hundreds of attacks which, in the last few years, have filled our daily news reports.
Terrorism – a calamity just as serious as the dozens of wars which still lead to bloodshed all over the world!
But what are the causes? There are many, but we must recognize that one of the deepest causes is the economic and social imbalance between rich and poor countries. This imbalance generates resentment, hostility and revenge, thus providing a breeding ground for fundamentalism which is more inclined to take hold in such terrain.
Now, if this is how things are, war is certainly not the way to reduce and put an end to terrorism. We need to follow the paths of dialogue, both political and diplomatic. But this is not enough. We need to promote solidarity among everyone in the world and a more equitable sharing of goods.
It goes without saying that there are many more burning issues facing national and international politics. In the western world the accepted economic theory is now undeniably in crisis, a crisis which no longer requires only limited remedies, but a global rethink.

The relentless march of scientific research cannot continue without guaranteeing the integrity and health of humankind and the entire ecosystem.
In acknowledging the essential role of the communications media in the modern world, we must establish certain basic rules aimed at promoting values and safeguarding individuals, groups and peoples.
While recognising the irreversible process of current globalisation, a central question emerges about the need to defend and appreciate the many riches that come from the different ethnic, religious and cultural groups.
These are some of the greatest challenges facing us today, reminding us of the need both to consider and to put into practice fraternity and since it is a world-wide problem, universal brotherhood and sisterhood is needed.

Many great thinkers promoted universal fraternity.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “The golden rule is to be friends with the world and to consider the whole human family as ‘one’.”
And with regard to the events of nine-eleven (September 11, 2001), the Dalai Lama wrote: “The reasons (for the events of these days) are clear to us. (…) We have forgotten the most basic of human truths. (…) We are all one. This is the message that the human race has greatly ignored. Forgetting this truth is the only cause of hatred and war.”
Without forgetting the Swiss saint, Nicholas of Flüe, prophet and peacemaker. Towards achieving it he affirmed that conflicts can be resolved in a profitable way only in full and total reciprocal respect, and therefore, by living fraternity to the point of reciprocal obedience.

However, the one who brought fraternity as an essential gift to humanity, was Jesus who prayed shortly before he died: “Father, may they all be one” (Jn 17, 21). In revealing God as our Father, he made us all brothers and sisters and broke down the walls which separate those who are “the same” from those who are “different”, friends from enemies.

Fraternity, then, is the ideal that we need to affirm. Fraternity is an ideal for today.

But are there signs of fraternity among peoples in the world today?

Over the years, having experienced countless times God’s providential hand in my own life and in the life of others, and having come into direct contact with many peoples, I have learned to recognise the steps forward which mark human progress, to the point of being able to affirm that its history is a slow, but continual journey towards universal fraternity.
The facts are in front of us, but we have to know how to interpret them. The world’s longing for unity has never been so alive and evident as it is today.

Signs of this are:
� the Unions of States and the processes of economic and political integration which are being accomplished increasingly at the level of continents or geo-political areas;
� the role of international organizations, especially the United Nations, which are more and more crucial in order to know how to face and manage the main questions affecting the lives of peoples and countries;
� the development of an increasingly broad and fruitful dialogue among a wide variety of people;
� the growth of social, cultural and religious movements which are themselves new facilitators in international relations and which work towards worldwide objectives.

Therefore, the means are not lacking so as to bring about fraternity in the world, which generates spiritual unity, and which guarantees unity in politics, economics, the social and cultural spheres. We need only to recognise them.
One means whose effectiveness has not yet been completely recognised, is the presence of dozens of movements which began to appear in the Christian world after the first decades of the twentieth century and which link peoples together through many networks, uniting peoples, cultures and differences. This is almost a sign that the world can become a home for all nations because it already is such a home through them, even if still in its early stages.
These movements are not the result of human plans or projects, but of charisms of the Spirit of God, who more than any man or woman on earth, knows the problems of our planet and wants to help to resolve them.
Because these Movements were founded by or are made up chiefly of lay people, they are deeply engaged with how people live. This in turn reflects on civil society where they contribute, through practical and achievable projects, in the fields of politics, economics, and so forth.
These diverse and wonderful movements have come to life in various Churches: Catholic, Reformed, Anglican, Evangelical, Orthodox, and others.

A special characteristic of these movements is the presence of very many young people, guarantee of the future, who are less conditioned than adults are by disappointing experiences of the past, who believe with greater enthusiasm in true and greater ideals.
On the 8th May this year in Stuttgart, Germany, these Movements came together for a very successful one-day event which they themselves organised and which was transmitted via satellite across Europe and further afield. The day was entitled: “Together for Europe”.
They offered to work towards achieving – along with the political or economic Europe or the Europe of the euro – the Europe of the spirit, seeking to give back a soul to Europe, a process which would also better guarantee Europe’s plurality and cohesion.

To give an example of these movements I would like to present to you the main ideas of the one I know best because I am involved in it: the Focolare Movement whose aim is precisely that of unity and universal fraternity.
It came to life while Trent (N. Italy) was being bombed during the second World War, while buildings were being destroyed and with them our plans for the future, our hopes and certainties.
Everything was collapsing, yet in the hearts of us young focolarine, a unique truth was appearing with an intensity we had never known before: God is the only Ideal that never dies, God who was showing himself to us for what he is, Love. And precisely in that climax of hatred and division, God who is Love suggested to us that in order to love him we needed to love one another and bring this love to everyone, a love which was immediately extended to the whole town.
With the passing of time this ideal spread across the world to 182 countries. The call to unity made us feel drawn to those places in the world where there was most division. As a result, specific spheres of dialogue and sharing came into evidence: first of all within the individual Churches, where the Movement gives its contribution so that there might be more “fellowship” and “communion”; among Christians of various Churches; with the faithful of the great religions, where there have been numerous experiences of respectful and fruitful dialogue, the “dialogue of life”, so necessary for peace. And finally, a dialogue built up through an active collaboration with those who do not have any formal faith.

Although the Focolare is primarily a religious movement, from its beginnings and down through the years, it has shown special interest in all spheres of society, including the political world, to the point of seeing the birth within the movement itself, in Naples, Italy, in 1996, of the so-called “Movement for Unity in Politics”. Now it too is expanding and organizing itself across the world.
I have had several opportunities to speak of the development of the “Movement for Unity in Politics”, addressing members of Parliament of various European nations and beyond, in Strasbourg, at the European Centre in Madrid and in the United Nations headquarters.
As the political expression of the Focolare Movement, the specific goal of this movement (for unity in politics) is to help people and groups involved in politics to rediscover the profound, eternal values of the human person, to put fraternity at the basis of their lives and only then, to move on to political action.
A consequence of political action which stems from interpersonal love is the possibility of a greater love, that which reaches out to the populace (polis). While this love acquires a political dimension, it does not lose its characteristics: the involvement of the whole person, who has the intelligence and will to reach everyone; the intuition and imagination to take the first step; the realism to put themselves in the other person’s shoes; the capacity to give oneself without hope of personal gain and to open up new ways even when human limits and failures would seem to block them.
It is not a new party, nor does it confuse religion and politics, as has happened and still happens due to fundamentalist attitudes on the part of Christians and non Christians alike.
Those who belong to the “Movement for Unity in Politics” are politicians working on every level: administrators, members of parliament, active members of the most varied political parties who feel the duty to act together for the good of those who have the real sovereignty, the citizens. Also involved are citizens who want to be politically active; students and political analysts who want to offer their contribution in expertise and research; local government officers aware of their particular role.
What this movement proposes and gives witness to, is a lifestyle that allows politics to reach its goal in the best possible way, that is, the common good in the unity of the social body.
In fact, one would wish to invite all those involved in politics to commit themselves to this lifestyle by making a pact of fraternity for their country, one that puts the country’s good above all partial interests, whether that of individuals, groups, classes or parties.
Fraternity offers surprising opportunities. It helps to keep together and value human experiences which otherwise could develop into insoluble conflicts. It harmonizes the experiences of local authorities with the sense of a shared history. It strengthens our appreciation of the importance of the international organizations and processes which attempt to overcome all barriers, taking important steps towards the unity of the human family.

Fraternity can give rise to projects and actions in the complex political, economic, cultural and social fabric of our world. Fraternity brings peoples out of their isolation and opens the door of development to those who are still excluded. Fraternity shows the way to resolving differences peacefully and relegates war to history books. Fraternity in action allows us to dream and even to hope for some kind of sharing of goods between rich countries and poor countries.

The profound need for peace expressed by humanity today indicates that fraternity is not only a value, not only a method, but a global paradigm for political development. This is why a world that is always more interdependent needs politicians, entrepreneurs, intellectuals and artists who put fraternity – a tool of unity – at the centre of their actions and thoughts.
Martin Luther King dreamed that fraternity would become the order of the day for business people and the password for statesmen and women. The politicians of the “Movement for Unity in Politics” want to make this dream become a reality.

This is only possible if, in one’s political activity, one does not forget the spiritual dimension or at any rate belief in the profound values which must rule the life of society. Nicholas of Flüe was convinced of this too, he who did so much for the political life of this nation. He always kept abreast of everything. One window of his cell looked outward towards the people, but the other looked inward towards the altar of the chapel.
The Honourable Igino Giordani, Italian member of parliament and co-founder of our movement, wrote, in his own unique style: “When we cross the threshold of our home to go out into the world, we cannot leave our faith hanging on the back of the door like a faded old hat.”

One day I seemed to understand the meaning of politics as love. If we were to give a colour to every human activity, to economy, to health, to communication, to art, to cultural endeavours, to the administration of justice… politics would not have a colour, it would be the background, it would be black so as to highlight all the other colours. This is why politics should seek to have a constant relationship with every other aspect of life, in order to provide the conditions for society itself, in all its expressions, to achieve fully its design.

Clearly, in this concern for dialogue, politics has the role of addressing certain areas: to promote fair, unbiased policies; to give preference to those in need; to promote participation at all times, which means dialogue, mediation, responsibility and concrete action.

For the politicians I am speaking of, the choice to become politically active is an act of love through which they respond to an authentic vocation, to a personal calling. Believers discern the voice of God calling them through circumstances; non-believers respond to a human call, to a social need, to a city’s problems, to the sufferings of their people which speak to their conscience. Both kinds of politicians feel at home in the “Movement for Unity in Politics”, and in both cases, they are motivated to act by love. This love is a source of light, it shows the possibility of achieving great results, it replaces that crushing fear which is often present in the political world, with courage, with new courage.

The politicians of unity become aware of the fact that politics is rooted in love. They understand that others, too, sometimes called political opponents, might have made their choices out of love.
They realize that every political alignment, every political option can be the answer to a social need and therefore necessary to building up the common good. Therefore, they are as interested in all that concerns the other – including his or her role – as they are in their own role, and criticism becomes constructive. They seek to live out the apparent paradox of loving the other’s party as their own because the good of the nation needs everyone’s cooperation.
This, summarizing the main points, is the ideal of the “Movement for Unity in Politics”, and this is – it seems to me – a politics worth living, a politics capable of recognising and serving the plan for one’s community, one’s town and nation, indeed that of all humanity, because fraternity is God’s plan for the whole human family. This is the genuine, authoritative politics which every country needs. In fact, strength comes with power but only love gives authority.

This politics builds works that will last. The future generations will not be grateful to politicians for having risen to power but for the way they have exercised it.
This is the politics which the “Movement for Unity in Politics” wants to generate and to support, with the help of God.

So, then, what is my wish for you, politicians of this splendid Switzerland?
That this people and in particular its representatives, enriched by your noble history of democracy, may find in fraternity the necessary energy to continue your journey with even greater effectiveness and to give a contribution as leaders in the history of unity of the human family.
For our part, we are committed to not leaving you alone, and we will put at your disposal the charism of unity which heaven offers to the whole of humanity.
Thank you for your attention.

Comments are disabled.