In the true spirit of a large family we started and ended the day with a children’s song which set the tone: ‘Build up, one another, build up your sister and brother …’ While the young people had their own sessions in different age groups, the main programme held in the beautiful Hope Chapel explored the feasibility of unity in our complex, multi-everything, and unpredictable society.
People gave personal witnesses of ‘walking the walk’ of unity in everyday life situations at work and in the home, while the keynote video of the day reported on Travelling Together, a large ecumenical gathering at the Focolare’s International Centre in Roca di Papa near Rome. A 70-strong ecumenical group from the UK had taken part and experienced a huge sense of family within the rich diversity of the 69 Churches present. A growing sense of true brother/sisterhood between different faith communities was further explored in the Muslim/Christian interfaith initiative of Wings of Unity, and finally from the perspective of a couple who, one a Humanist and the other a Christian, support and enrich each other’s spiritual lives.
The highly acclaimed Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope, Professor Gerald Pillay, spoke warmly about his ‘indelible’ memories of Chiara Lubich. He related her charism of unity to the significance of Hope Street, which connects the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals of Liverpool and which also gave the name to this, Europe’s only ecumenical university. His words on the extraordinary and unifying Love of God, through which we must preserve and increase unity on our ‘beautiful blue glowing planet’ and avoid building more walls, were enthusiastically received. Keeping others out is always a self-limiting course of action he argued.
A group of young families shared how their monthly meetings led to an increase of family love in their homes, with both children and parents helping each other to keep the momentum going. One of their ‘tools’ is the Word of Life which encourages us to put the life-giving words of the Gospel into practice. Another tool which keeps the world-wide family of Focolare connected is the bi-monthly satellite video link-up. Examples presented were two initiatives by local communities working together towards a stable and peaceful environment amidst the threat of violence. One addressed the legacy of the troubles in Northern Ireland and the other the problem of knife crime.
The day’s programme tackled serious questions and proposed concrete answers, shared with love, courage and humility. Participants had the opportunity to contribute not only by listening or speaking, but also by concretely building that ‘oneness’ during a relaxing lunchtime and long afternoon breakout session. Friendships were formed or renewed, ideas discussed. In a colourful activity we metaphorically linked hands, symbolic of our journey ahead together. As a highlight towards the end of the day we turned in prayer to the Father of us all: unity is also a gift. We cannot achieve it on our own, but we can roll up our sleeves and continue to work for it together – never has our society needed it more.