“What future lies ahead for a multicultural, multiethnic and multifaith society?” This is the disquieting question not only of England but of the whole Europe and beyond, after the tragedy that struck the heart of London, the most cosmopolitan city of the Old World on July 7, and Sharm el Sheik in Egypt on July 23.
The question is also the title of the Mariapolis, the summer meeting offered by the Focolare in various parts of the world. That of England started on July 24 at Lake District Windermere, northern England; the participants were about 600, including a group of Muslims.
Just last year, on June 19, 2004, Chiara Lubich gave an answer – which is very timely in these days – to the question about a multicultural society. The occasion was a meeting at Westminster Central Hall, attended by over 2,000 people, including leading Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu personalities. Her message is now being shown through videotape in the various Mariapolis.
Not a clash of civilizations, but the birth of a united world. In front of fears for the future, Chiara Lubich presents St. Augustine’s opinion about the migration of peoples occurring during his times. She indicates dialogue as a preventive measure against terrorism, and the “golden rule,” common to many religions, as the way to achieve it: “Do not do unto others what you wouldn’t want others to do unto you.” In other words: a love that knows how to be one with the other, to the point of “getting into the other’s skin… understanding what it means for the other to be Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu.” This is the way to practice reciprocal inculturation and build a society where “cultures are open to one another … in a profound dialogue of reciprocal love. “ She invites the religions to take the strategy of fraternity in order to heal the gap between rich and poor and effect a turning point in international relations.
A large number of echoes have arrived via e-mail from different countries, from Christians, Muslims and faithful of other religions who participated in the Mariapolis held during the summer months. Here is what they write from Los Angeles, where a group of Muslim friends (followers of W.D. Mohammed, leader of The Mosque Cares) were present at the Mariapolis: “Listening to this message of universal brotherhood together, right after hearing the news of the London terrorist attack, was really a sign of hope. Everyone was strongly impressed to see that among us, universal brotherhood was already a reality.” From the Mariapolis of St. Vith (Belgium), where18 different nationalities were represented, they wrote: “What struck the Muslims most was the experience of God’s presence in the midst of the community through mutual love.” The same experience was made in Amman (Jordan), where a group from Iraq was also present, and in Istanbul. A Muslim ex-military man, now a professor, commented: “Here I have seen brotherhood assume another dimension. All that we’ve heard reminds me of the thoughts of Mevlana (a noted Turkish Muslim mystic).” A Muslim woman remarked: “Here diversity has been transformed into unity. We have experienced the rainbow of peace, coloured by love.”