16th February 2011: A conference with the President of the Focolare Movement on the purpose of dialogue held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Great interest was shown in the topic from the perspectives of the Focolare Movement after tens of years of presence in the Holy Land. Personalities from both the Christian and Jewish worlds were present in the chosen audience which numbered about 80. In the audience were: Papal Nuncio Antonio Franco, Auxiliary Bishop of Israel Giacinto Marcuzzo, Rabbi David Rosen, Debbie Weissmann President of the International Council of Christians and Jews, rabbis and Jewish academics, Palestinian representatives, delegates from Christian communities and congregations. All those present were from longstanding contacts with individual Christians, Jews and Muslims and also institutions and association committed to interreligious dialogue.
Maria Voce opened her talking by quoting from Chiara Lubich, in 1969, speaking to a group of young people: “Travelling around the world I have been aware there is great evil. I have seen humanity as a wounded Adam. I have seen battles between peoples and the ongoing threat of war. I have seen social problems that need resolution. I remember Jerusalem as a divided city. And in all the zone of the Middle East there are hotbeds of war, so that peace is always in jeopardy. And then I said: what can we who carry the Ideal of unity do? We must help these brothers love one another, help this body heal itself. Here we must be health for humanity”.
Maria Voce continued unpacking the talk, presenting the ‘dialogue of life’ which is typical of the Focolare Movement, “this does not put people into opposition, but allows people of different faiths to meet and makes them able to open up to one another, to find common ground and live them together”. She clarified what dialogue means “we work neither with the faiths nor through the faiths, we work with people, from whichever faith”. Dialogue was presented as a ‘sign of the times’ really contemporary for the ‘night of culture’ that a large part of humanity is going through: “We can say that from the night of culture, which looks like a night of dialogue, there can come a new culture which starts from the rediscovery of the natural dialogic of the human person”.
Dialogue with an ontological dimension and an ethic, to which Chiara Lubich gave a particular depth: “In interreligious dialogue we aim to live, above all, on both sides, the ‘golden rule’ – ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’, which means love the others. According to the Talmud, Hillel explained it in these terms: “Don’t do to your neighbour that which you would not like done to you: this is the whole Torah; the rest is just comment. Go and study”. It’s a norm that we know which is present, with slight differences in our monotheistic traditions born in this part of the world. It is also in the great traditions of Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Therefore all men and women of good will can live it in their daily lives”. Maria Voce added: “The practise of the Golden Rule, became reciprocal, and set off a methodology of dialogue than can be defined as the ‘art of loving’”, which was proposed by Chiara herself.
And she concluded: “This path, we can’t deny it, is difficult and requires great commitment to overcome obstacles, to overcome the temptation of egoism, of looking in on oneself. This is the price to transform the wound into a blessing, death into life, to make meeting together the moment where peace and fraternity flower”. Another quite from Chiara Lubich: “Fraternity is not just a value, it is a global paradigm for political development, because it is the driving force of positive process. After thousands of years of history in which the effects of violence and hatred were felt, we all have the right today to ask that humanity should start to experience what the fruits of love can be”.
At the end of the talk there was a lengthy and profound dialogue with the people present: the discussions covered those who have no religious faith; the seriousness of dialogue not just ending in simply courtesy; recognition of the other; difficult contexts in which it is not easy to apply the ‘golden rule’.
“The message brought by Maria Voce, that of Chiara Lubich, put into light the presence of God in the other”, commented Rabbi David Rosen. Rabbi Emile Moatti said: “Dialogue must penetrate into the wounds of history and conflicts, for it also to become history”.
Citta’ Nuova Online