“In times of hatred and fear I thank God for having chosen us to encounter a spirituality like that of Chiara Lubich, which is able to make humanity experience peace and the real joy of unity. Here in Loppiano, we are experiencing a foretaste of God’s kingdom.”
These were the words of one of the six Iranian students who will stay in Loppiano for a month, and take part in the little town’s daily life, 24 hours round the clock. “It is a new experience for all of us,” affirmed Rita Moussallem who with Roberto Catalano is co-director of the Interreligious Centre of the Focolare, “a prophetic sign and promise of hope which tells us that love will overcome all things.”
The students come from the women’s seminary, “Jami’at al-Zahra” in the city of Qum (Iran), at about 200 km from Tehran, the capital. This is an academic centre of excellence for Shiite Islam and is the biggest in the world with about 6,000 female students, a thousand of which come from other countries.
Qum is a Sciite sacred city due to the presence of important shrines, visited by thousands of pilgrims every year, and seat of numerous universities, with about 100,000 students.
This visit is the fruit of the fraternal relationship and dialogue that started a number of years ago between the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue of the Focolare and Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali, professor at the international section of the women’s seminary of Qum and founder and director of the International Institute of Islamic Studies (in Qum), and also a member of the councils of various academic institutions. He currently resides in London and guides the Islamic Centre of Great Britain. “Last April, upon the invitation of Dr Shomali, we went with some focolarini to Qum,” Roberto Catalano explained, “to visit various university institutes and to get to know each other better. It was because of this that the concrete possibility for a group of students to visit Loppiano came about, to allow them to personally experience the spirituality of unity.”
In Loppiano, Dr Shomali with his wife and the students visited the various schools and work sites, and got to meet Loppiano’s inhabitants, listen to their experiences and immerse themselves in the life and activities of the town. An important moment was Dr Shomali’s encounter with the professors and students of the Sophia University Institute. On referring to the name of the Institute he underlined how the concept of wisdom signifies something more than knowledge: “We can listen to the words of knowledge of many people, but the quality of wisdom can only come from God.”
The students will now continue to explore the spirituality of unity and its concrete aspects.