“The results are far beyond our greatest expectations,” said Roberto Catalano from the Focolare’s Centre for Interreligious Dialogue at the conclusion of a gathering of the “Wings of Unity” research group that has come up with rather a challenging agenda, considering the difficult phase that Europe is going through. The Co-Directors of the project are SUI President Piero Coda and Professor Mohammad Ali Shomali, Director of the Islamic Centre of England.
The idea of meeting at Loppiano, Italy, goes back to last April when Professor Shomali had been invited to present a lecture at the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religions in the Contemporary World course that was offered by SUI in collaboration with Professor Frizzi. But the origins of Wings of Unity go back even in a story of friendship, solidarity and trust between Muslim and Christian friends of the Focolare. That friendship began 19 years ago in daily life settings and in the halls of academia, and has now evolved into a common interreligious witness of universal brother and sisterhood. That is what it was for the 14 members – 5 of them Shiites – of the seminar that was recently held at SUI on July 8-10, 2016.
Iranian theologian Sharzad Housmand, professor at the Gregorian Pontifical University and expert in Islamic-Christian Dialogue, was also in attendance and highlighted the great novelty of the event. The same was true for Christian Arooj Javed, SUI student from Pakistan who said she could never even have imagined such a spirit of communion and, at the same time, openness and transparency between Christians and Muslims.
The work began with texts from Chiara Lubich, presented by Coda and Catalano, in which the Focolare foundress highlighted the fact that unity is something that should be sought with everyone, because we are all children of a single Father. Professor Shomali then presented some excerpts from the Koran and successive traditions that were in harmony with what Chiara Lubich had written. To everyone’s surprise, the more the dialogue deepened, the more the “hardness” of diversity faded giving space to a dialogue that was marked by deep listening and mutual understanding.
The presentations given by Professor Callebaut and Professor Ropelato that focused on the centrality of love were also valuable. They indicated the capacity of human beings to unite diverse human settings both within and outside themselves as the new line for social, economic and political life. The contributions from the Shitte guests opened new and timely scenarios for the experience of unity as a value that becomes kairos, [at] the right moment. Professor Mahnaz Heydarpoor’s words sounded convincing as she called for training in interreligious dialogue for the new generations.
An interreligious summer school workshop for young people has been scheduled for 2017 which will continue the communion that was begun at this school: “After years spent in building trust among us,” one Muslim remarked, “the new generations no longer need to wait: We want to do everything we can so that they will be able to experience the unity that so intensely filled our hearts and minds in these days.”
Source: Sophia online