Washington DC: Unity – a new frontier

“Americans always see a new frontier to be crossed. This is how they reached the moon. Wouldn’t you like reach unity?” Maria Voce said wrapping up her informal address at a meeting with Washington’s Focolare Community on the evening of 7th April.

300 local members of the Movement had come to spend two days together in the nation’s capital. Their meeting held at the Catholic University of America was enriched by an encounter with the country’s history.

Participants represented a true cross-section of the ethnic and cultural groups in this capital city that hosted some of the most memorable moments for the nation and many iconic turning points in the story of mankind: from the declaration of independence and the memorable speech by Abraham Lincoln right up to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ and J.F.K.’s ‘The New Frontier’.

That morning Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti had visited the city’s historical sites, giving them an insight to the values that built this nation of peoples: simplicity, practicality, humility, readiness to forgive, openness to novelty, optimism, strength not to give up even when doors are closed. “They are extraordinary gifts that have come about thanks to the contribution of the many populations who came to these lands in the search of wellbeing. They may have gone to Colorado on a quest for gold but above all they were looking for freedom”, Maria Voce underlined. In the U.S., this freedom is in the air you breathe and in the heart of everyone who chose to come and live in the “New World”.

“You’ve reached the dream of freedom. Perhaps now is the time to do something for unity that, in a certain sense, you have also reached, thinking of the many cultures united in the USA”, continued the Focolare’s president.  She confided however that the people she met over the past number of days expressed regret for the individualistic environment in which they live. Maria Voce then shared her impression that music in US- spirituals, jazz, rock and rap- seems to express its people’s ardent desire for unity- a comment that pleasantly surprised many. “The Spirituality of Unity could do something to help this dream come true… God sent the Charism of Unity here too. It’s a gift that can’t render me indifferent if I’ve received it”.

The evening’s program demonstrated how its participants, with their cultural and religious diversity, originate from all corners of the globe: Europe, Asia, the Middle-East, Cameroon. Noteworthy was the colourful presence of the 30 or so Bangwa-Cameroonians with Mafua Cristina who was on visit to the USA. Likewise the participation of a group of Afro-American Muslims with Imam Talib Sharif was particularly precious.

The Imam fondly remembered how, in 2000, Chiara Lubich launched ‘Operation Washington’ between members of the Focolare and Afro-American Muslims. He was doing military service at the time and the meeting deeply struck him. Afterwards, whilst waiting for a train back to his barracks, he found himself looking through the crowd to see if he could spot the smile of someone from the Movement. He didn’t see anyone but was reassured by the certainty that deep within him something had been edified and would be brought ahead by the relationship between Chiara and Imam W.D. Mohammed. On the 7th April in Washington, along with other Muslim brothers and sisters he witnessed that this relationship had been reinforced and developed.

Looking at the hall at the end of the two hour programme at the Catholic University of America, you could see the dream expressed on the Great Seal of the United States Government-E pluribus unum, Out of Many, One- coming true. “Which doesn’t mean that all are the same”, specified Maria Voce, “but that all are united”.

Roberto Catalano

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