Giving law a human face and seeking justice founded on the values of fraternity. This was Maria Voce’s strong message, as a lawyer herself and President of the Focolare Movement, addressing an audience of 300 people gathered on the 25th of May at the Faculty of Law at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi, Kenya. Her audience was composed of students studying law and social sciences, professors, members of the Faculty and staff of the University.
In her talk “Law in contemporary society” Maria Voce explained how through the evolution of society, correct behaviour had become organised in systems within communities, and as states achieved political identity these systems were incorporated in their Constitutions, codes and other laws.
According to the President of the Focolare, with the coming of Christianity, “a superior law come to the fore as a reference point. It is a law that comes from God, who is Just and was given to humanity through Jesus. It is the law of love.”
Maria Voce then dwelt on the development of the African legal system where she observed that “there is a very strong communitarian tendency in which the individual is never considered in an isolated way, but always as a member of a community (family, clan, bloodline or tribe) to which the person owes duties of responsibility and from which they receive help, support and protection.”
She affirmed, furthermore, that the spirituality of communion lived by Focolare members is beginning to influence the building up of the social fabric and the rules that govern human communities. To explain this she referred to a few points of the spirituality of unity. The first is the discovery of God who is Love. “This understanding led us to practise the “greater righteousness”. If justice is to give to each his own – we said to ourselves – since everything belongs to God, give everything to God and you will be righteous!” The second is the commitment to do the Will of God which “leads us to discovering the foundation of legality, understood as consistency between what we do and the fundamental choice that we have made, the choice of God-Love.” And the third: love of neighbour. For Maria Voce, “We cannot ignore this if we wish to actively recognise the dignity of each person and their inviolable rights.”
Speaking of mutual love, she reminded her audience that “human persons are social by nature and need other people just as the others need them.” She added that “mutual love is the law of collaboration which, by enabling us to discover each person as a gift of love, is the cement of society and the equilibrium of law.”
She ended saying, “We are encouraged by the experience of the Movement which seems like the proof of a hypothesis about life woven from personal relationships founded on the principle of unity. It witnesses that it is possible to establish a legal system based on the new commandment as the fundamental law for relations between people.”
After her talk, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dr Maurice Owuor, emphasised the relevance of Maria Voce’s speech explaining that “love is a value that can sustain our laws.” He affirmed that “we should place greater emphasis on educating citizens to values such as love, fraternity and obeying the law not out of fear of sanctions but because it is a good thing in itself.”
There followed an open forum for comments and questions. In answer to a question regarding the effects of justice on the common good, Maria Voce affirmed, “it is not the law that contributes to the common good, but the person who contributes to promoting just laws.” And she left the students with a challenge: “My hope is that many of you can work to establish many good laws.”
Complete text of Maria Voce’s address: Law and Contemporary Society