The Burj Khalifa is currently the world’s tallest building, its 160 floors rising to a dizzying 830 metres. At ground level an immense choreographed fountain is illuminated by laser beams bouncing through water jets to a constantly changing musical accompaniment. Although its “world-highest” title is under threat from the Kingdom Tower of Gedda (200 floors) and other skyscrapers rising up in various countries, the city of Dubai is synonymous with its  ‘At The Top’ observation deck, offering breath-taking birds-eye views of stunning ultramodern constructions. In recent years, the so-called ‘city of dreams’ has seen one of the highest immigration rates in the world, attracting people from many different countries looking for work. This has produced a distinctively cosmopolitan environment, one not without difficulties, particularly for its foreign workers.

In this high-rise ‘concrete jungle’ dwells a small community of the Focolare Movement. Many left their own countries for Dubai  – like countless others – hoping to find better financial opportunities for their families.  For three weeks in February this community enthusiastically welcomed Romè from the Philippines, Fadia and Susanne from Jordan and Murad from Syria, later joined by Alessandro from Italy for part of the time. Together they formed a ‘temporary focolare’ in this unique location.

The visitors recall: “We were welcomed at the airport by a group of radiant faces. Each one of us was presented with a beautiful flower! Instantly we were made to feel at home. Our first morning in Dubai dawned with an email greeting from Focolare President, Maria Voce: ‘May Jesus be always present among you, and may He be the most beautiful gift for those you will meet!’ These words guided our steps as we entered into the heart of this community. On tip-toe we contacted one person after another, setting up appointments in their homes, in churches, restaurants, shopping centres and even in metro stations.  Wherever we met, people brought items – providence – to share with others. Every moment of the day, and well into the night hours as well, provided opportunities to build a ‘shelter’ for Jesus, for Jesus among us. And what joy every time!”

The visitors joined an international and culturally diverse group of Focolare animators to prepare a 2-day Mariapolis. “Our presence in Dubai was in order to serve. But each one of the 70 participants at the Mariapolis, from eleven different nationalities, gave their own active contribution. Chiara Lubich’s last wish ‘always be a family’ was evident there.”

The visitors continue: “Talking with several Dubai residents, we became aware of how many worries they may have – discrimination, the fear of losing a job, the high cost of living combined with disproportionately low salaries, no permanent residence, and often no clear future. However, beneath all this, lies a ‘treasure’ hidden in each one’s heart: God, whom they have chosen as their ideal in life.” In conclusion, “We saw how it’s the life of unity lived as part of a community which helps each one withstand the daily challenges.” This – and not height in metres – is what characterizes their distinctive race to The Top.

Chiara Favotti

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