Focolare Movement
New York Conference on the Information Society

New York Conference on the Information Society


A working session during the conference

Taking stock 10 years from the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, 2004): building an information society that is focused on the human person; inclusive and oriented towards development; finding adequate forms of funding equitable development of communications infrastructures; identifying common mechanisms and the effective management of the Internet. How far have we come in the past 10 years? This was the question the General Assembly of the United Nations tried to answer at the Meeting dedicated to the WSIS+10 on the information society, at the United Nations General Headquarters, December 15-16, in New York. The work of evaluating was complex, with contributions from many analysts. It concluded with a final document that was unanimously adopted by the delegations of different countries. We spoke with Cesare Borin, who attended the forum with the New Humanity delegation, an NGO of the Focolare Movement. “Ever since WISIS 2003 in Geneva, and Tunis in 2005, the work of the United Nations has adopted a more open approach open to collaboration amongst a variety of players including members of civil society, such as New Humanity, the private sector, governments and international organisations. Already in Tunis we were part of a large group from NetOne that collaborated in experimental projects by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Alcatel. In the years that followed, we took part in several Internet Governance Forum (IGF) events always on behalf of New Humanity, and we established contacts with a number of people.”

With Mr Fadi Chehade, President of ICANN (centre), a non profit organisation which administers the assignation of top level domains on the Internet.

And now? What is the contribution of New Humanity to the specific topics that were discussed? ”There were six of us on the delegation: myself, a Brazilian, Maria Luiza Bigati; a Mexican, Maria del Rocio Ortega, both computer engineers; Betsy Dugas from the United States, who is also a computer engineer; Joe Klock and Anne Marie Cottone from the Permanent Representation of New Humanity at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.” In the preceding months, New Humanity had submitted its own contribution to the final document. The document is the result of a mediation process that examined important current issues of today such as terrorism, protecting human rights, protecting individual freedom. Comparing and contrasting a wide variety of sensibilities that each country emphasizes, and finding a common shared point signifies a great and important result. The WSIS has become a place of dialogue, no matter how strenuous, that can enable us to come up with new forms of ‘governance’.”   The International New Humanity NGO has worked on community capacity building projects for over ten years, in the poorest communities of Africa’s Sub-Sahara region, in Asia and in Latin America. . . “Access to information has become one of the basic human rights of our age. Access is just as important as the basic rights of health and education. In our projects the main objective has always been to fully engage the local community, to say that the principles we talk about are not just wishful thinking.”  

“Welcome to New York, Holy Father”

“Welcome to New York, Holy Father”

20150926-03“Welcome, Holy Father” posters appeared all around the city already on Thursday. The taxi driver watching the Pope on TV was not indifferent: “So, you’re going to see the Pope tomorrow? Congratulations!” “Everyone finds the Pope appealing because he is authentic,” a non-Catholic man on the train said. He’s right: Francis does not need to attract attention or make himself appealing to all. And so he gave us a lesson before the UN’s General Assembly: on sustainable development, climate change and the issue of refugees: “We must not be appalled by the numbers… we have to look at their faces and listen to their stories,” he said in Washington. And at the UN: “Every man must be able to have concrete access to indispensible material and spiritual goods: a home, a dignified and well paid job, enough food, drinking water and religious freedom. ” He again strongly criticised drug trafficking, sexual exploitation of people, the arms rackets. In the same way as he had clearly denounced before the US Congress, he made another appeal to put aside divisions and antagonisms between political parties and to help the poor. The sacredness of each human being is a theme he strongly feels, and at the end of his speech, there were unending rounds of applause. He then left and greeted the people from his Fiat car which seemed so tiny amid the huge limousines. 20150926-aAt Ground Zero, 500 representatives of various religions were all waiting to pray together for peace. Sue Kopp, a focolarina of New York who was able to participate in the rite, affirmed: “It was so meaningful also due to the diversity of this country. This place, which seemed so sacred to me, and marked by such immense suffering, has been transformed into a place of hope. The dream of a civilisation of love, is becoming a reality.”. Joe Klock, of New Humanity (an International NGO accredited at the UN) said; “The Pope   underlined the importance of building unity in diversity, where peace and love reign among the nations and the hearts of all. This reality demonstrates that the world needs the spirituality of unity, which seems to be precisely tailored to this country!” Also in New York, the Pope visited some charitable organisations, among which a model school in Harlem. And then, in Central Park. The 80,000 lucky people were able to get entrance tickets, waited for hours, even to get just a glimpse of him. The Mass was celebrated at Madison Square Garden, where the seats are usually occupied by basketball stars and pop singers. The people waited for hours to enter but no one complained. Then the big surprise: Pope Francis arrived 20 minutes earlier than planned! 20150926-02The altar, the chair and the pulpit were simply handcrafted . Cardinal Timothy Dolan had the impression that the Pope would have appreciated this more than if the items were made by a designer. And here, Francis became the pastor of the immense city, recalling the reading from the book of Isaiah 9.1: “The people walking in the darkness saw a great light.”. He spoke about the difficulties of the multicultural cities where the light is absent due to so much smog. “But Jesus walks down our streets today,” he said and continued to invite all to go out towards the others, with the heart of a “merciful father waiting for his children to come home.” The church is alive in the cities, the Pope stressed, and so Christians have to bear witness to the light of the Good News. The applause went on and on. As in all the other countries, also in the USA the Pope has touched the heart of each one of us.

New York: Focolare and Malcolm X Mosque aim towards universal brotherhood

New York: Focolare and Malcolm X Mosque aim towards universal brotherhood

Sharry Silvi (right) with Chiara Lubich as they leave the mosque on May 18, 1997

“A bright moment in the relationship between Christians and Muslims.” This is the title of an article reported in a New York newspaper in announcing the forthcoming event on 20th May entitled  “Our Journey Towards the Excellence of the Human Familyto be held at the Malcolm Shabbaz Mosque in Harlem. It will commemorate the unprecedented pact made between the two leaders – Imam W. D. Mohammed and Chiara Lubich – to work together to promote unity in the human family. In this article, Sharry Silvi gives her eyewitness account of that historic meeting.

‘May 18, 1997. That unforgettable day will remain etched in my soul forever. I was next to Chiara when we walked together into the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, both wearing our chadors. There was a very big crowd.

Chiara had prepared herself with great care, and I sensed she felt we were about to live a very important moment. While she was talking, the atmosphere in the hall was unbelievable. It was as if she were speaking to a group of people she had known for years.

At the end of the program we walked out of the hall together, and suddenly she took me by my arm. “Come,” she said, “I need you to translate for me.” I followed her into Imam Izak-El M. Pasha’s office, which Imam W. D. Mohammed had just entered.

“Imam Mohammed,” she said, “Let’s make a pact, in the name of the one God, to work unceasingly for peace and for unity.”

Imam Mohammed responded immediately. “This pact is made forever,” he said. “May God be my witness that you are my sister. I am your friend and I will help you always.”

It was such a powerful moment that I could hardly find the words to translate what was being said. A translation, in fact, almost wasn’t needed. They understood one another. They were two great leaders who answered God’s call to bring about a world of peace and love, and they understood that working together would help this to come true.

Imam Mohammed and Chiara Lubich came from two very different cultures and two different religions. They both already knew of each other, but that day they were meeting in person for the first time. The Imam had made a great act of trust in inviting Chiara, but he was certain that she could help his people. And Chiara came with the certainty that together they could further the unity of the world.

When we left that room I attempted to escort Chiara to the small elevator that could bring us down from the third floor of the mosque where we were. But Chiara declined the offer. “Let me walk among these people,” she said. She already loved the followers of Imam W.D.

I have been with Chiara many times on different occasions, yet this time stands out in my soul more than in my mind because of the joy she had in her heart that day. A group of us was with her driving back to Mariapolis Luminosa, and we all commented on this extraordinary event.

Chiara suddenly asked for a pen and paper. She wanted to write to the rest of the Focolare Movement all over the world that something important had taken place that day. She was looking for the right words, and what came to her mind were some of the expressions used by the Gen 3, the young people of the movement, to describe their recent congress: “It was super … it was mega!” It had been a moment of God.

Imam Pasha had done an incredible job in preparing everything for this particular encounter, making the environment that would host it very welcoming; and he has continued to keep this moment alive in the community. Soon the whole group following Imam Mohammed came to know Chiara, whom they called the “blessed lady.”

I remember that whenever I visited the mosque from that day on I had the impression that everyone I met on the street knew about Chiara, knew about what had happened and saw us as her followers. They always asked us how she was, what she was doing, where she was going.

A moment of God. In fact a great moment of God. It doesn’t happen every day, and I feel that we need to do everything possible to continue it through our lives, in order to bring forward the fruits of unity that this encounter has brought about.

Many years have passed and I feel more than ever that the followers of Imam Mohammed are truly my brothers and sisters, and I’m sure that for them we followers of Chiara are also their brothers and sisters.’

By Sharry Silvi

In 1997, Sharry Silvi, former Living City editor, was then Focolare co-director of the U.S. East Coast region. She currently heads the worldwide center for women focolarini in Rome.

New York City, NY

Please note: The geolocalization feature on this website – which displays cities and towns where Focolare centers are present – is only meant to be a guide. The markers on the map do not necessarily point to a specific address and they must not be relied on for navigational purposes.   Avvertenza: tutte le informazioni geocodificate presenti in questo sito sono puramente  indicative. Gli oggetti rappresentati (ad es. luoghi d’incontro e quant’altro) e i servizi di localizzazione o navigazione, possono essere imprecisi o errati nello stabilire indirizzi, posizioni, prossimità, distanze, indicazioni e orientamento. (more…)

East Coast – Bronx, New York

Please note: The geolocalisation feature on this website – which displays cities and towns where Focolare centres are present – is only meant to be a guide. The markers on the map do not necessarily point to a specific address and they must not be relied on for navigational purposes.