Taking care of the city

The commitment of a small community in the Murcia region of Spain has led to lots of activities being set up to create space for dialogue and solidarity, such as meetings between citizens and politicians, cultural events and activities responding to social and humanitarian emergencies.

Aljucer is a small town in the Murcia region of southern Spain. Twelve years ago, members of the local Focolare community asked themselves what they could do to make their commitment to living fraternity a reality which impacts on people in the local area which is located in fertile land close to the Mediterranean Sea, but which also has its fair share of large and small emergencies.

The first step was to find a way to create opportunities for participating in the life of the town which were more open and inclusive. So, in collaboration with other groups, they set up a cultural association called ‘ACLF Aljucer’. “Our first experience as an association,” they said, “was to bring together various mayors who had been in office in the city during the Spanish democratic period. Inviting them was not easy, but in the end they all agreed to participate. They had an opportunity to introduce themselves, recall the time when they held office and, in some cases, reconcile with one another. In the end, they thanked us and encouraged us to continue in this vein.”

This experience led to the idea of holding a meeting every year to bring politicians and citizens closer together which is how “In Our Hands” and “The Speaker” were born. The first of these meetings which have now been running for twelve years,” they explained, “took place before the elections and offered a safe space where dialogue between citizens and candidates was encouraged. In the second event, a topical issue was chosen, and politicians and citizens were given the floor. Speeches and proposals are collected, published on the Association’s website and offered as contributions to the City Council. Some of the topics proposed have been studied in depth and, from that experience, the idea of a Cultural Centre under the authority of the Municipality arose which is now becoming a reality.

The Association also puts on cultural activities, such as concerts, book presentations and exhibitions. And there is also “Aljucereños”, an event where personalities from the world of culture, music, art, literature, politics, economics and medicine talk about their life experiences and the motivation behind their choices. They also hold monthly meetings with other assocations and organise an annual Associations’ Fair.

But it is also important to listen and respond to the sufferings and wounds of the local area to build fraternity. “The first step we took towards solidarity,” they continued, “was to organise a dinner in aid of the ‘Fraternity with Africa’ project which provides scholarships for young Africans who have committed to working in their home country for at least five years. This very soon became our main activity, the one for which we became known by so many. Shopkeepers and associations help organise the dinners which bring together around 200 people. Participants are updated on the project’s development at every meeting”.

The Association also collaborates with initiatives promoted by other organisations that support humanitarian emergencies (Philippines, Madagascar, Croatia) and has committed to helping refugees from the war in Syria. The latest activity was a fundraiser for Lebanon, after the explosions in Beirut in August 2020.

Even when there were emergencies closer to home they didn’t back down. “Last year,” they explained, “we made it our priority to provide water and food to the people affected by flooding in the area. We also organised volunteer activities and collected school supplies for a school in our area where a high number of pupils are at risk of exclusion. In the last year, we have supported three families affected by the pandemic by providing food, medicine and financial assistance. We disseminate all these activities through the Association’s website and Facebook page which help us to promote a culture of solidarity on a large scale”.

Anna Lisa Innocenti


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