Assisi Meeting Is Only a Beginning, Says Chiara Lubich

Interview with Focolare Founder

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ROME, FEB. 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, addressed the question of ecumenism and progress in interreligious dialogue, following the World Day of Prayer in Assisi last month.



Lubich has organized a series of initiatives for this year, such as a "Hindu Christian Seminar" (Castel Gandolfo, June 14-18), and an International Conference of Muslim Friends of the Focolare Movement (Nov. 1-3). Over the past few weeks Lubich has met with religious leaders who were in Assisi.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Lubich, published in the Feb. 10 issue of Città Nuova magazine (http://www.cittanuova.it).

Q: What could help this event, and the solemn commitments taken by religious leaders, to have the greatest impact? Do you see a concrete contribution on the part of the Focolare Movement?

Lubich: As for the first question, we should see this gathering as the historic event that it was, and not as an isolated moment. It has already, and not just in the Christian world, sparked local prayer events and other moments for peace building. It is not an isolated event, because there should also be a follow-up to it in some way. That´s what we´re hoping for.

After Sept. 11, we have yet another reason to meet and pray to God for peace. In reality, certain wars going on in different regions of the world are not just the result of hatred and resentment over injustices that have been inflicted, or built-up bitterness that then explodes.

These are all negative factors, but perhaps simply human factors. With the emergence of widespread terrorism, we are facing what the Pope has called "forces of evil." To vanquish them, human efforts alone are not enough, nor it is sufficient to set the political world in motion.

The religious world has to come to grips with the need to make good triumph over evil -- Good with a capital G -- through a common effort to create all across the planet that universal brotherhood in God that religions are called to bring to fulfillment. Only this brotherhood can be the soul of that world community which recent Popes have spoken of and which many Christians aspire to.

The hope in our heart is that Assisi 2002 will mark the beginning of a series of well-planned initiatives prepared and carried out by those who have this responsibility so that the cry "war never again" becomes a reality.

As for the Focolare Movement, since it is the fruit of a charism for our times, we feel we are already in tune through our different dialogues, activities and spirit, with the needs of today. However, the event in Assisi helped to speed up the movement. We´ll do our best to keep up and increase the pace. As with everything, we are always at the total service of what the Spirit and the Church may ask of us.

Q: Among some Christians there is a certain reluctance when it comes to interreligious dialogue. They are afraid of losing their identity or that syncretism might occur. What is your opinion on this? What would you say to someone who is hesitant about getting involved in this dialogue?

Lubich: It is definitely not wrong to fear losing one´s identity or to be wary of syncretism when it comes to approaching the faithful of other religions. If we think that any Christian is capable of getting involved in dialogue then we run a real risk. In fact, only those who are prepared for it, who have the vocation to it, should do so.
On the other hand, in this day and age, in many different countries, persons of different religions live right next door to one another. So there must be a way to relate. I believe that as Christians we can do so by putting into practice the love that Jesus brought about on earth and this love has certain demands.

It is a love that has to go out to everyone, not just to our relatives and friends, following the example of the love of the heavenly Father who sends the rain and the sun on the bad and the good alike, which means on our enemies, too. Furthermore, it is a love that urges us to take the initiative in loving, without expecting to be loved, just as Jesus did. Thus, when we were still sinners, when we were not loving, he gave his life for us.

It is a love that urges one to see the other as oneself, to love the other as oneself. This love is not just a matter of words and feelings; it is concrete. It requires that we make ourselves one with the others, that we "live" the person we are with, in their pain and in their joy, so as to understand them and help them effectively.

Finally, this love requires us to see Christ in the person we love. This means that even though we love a given individual, Christ takes whatever we do, whether good or bad, as having been done to himself. My advice to reluctant Christians, therefore, would be what I have just explained to you, so as to put them at peace and encourage them to love, too.

Q: You mentioned the golden rule in your talk, as did the Pope, Patriarch Bartholomew and Cardinal Kasper. How can this help dialogue?

Lubich: It is the basis upon which interreligious dialogue can be built. The sacred books of the world´s religions affirm that you should do to others what you would like others to do to you (see Matthew 7:12).

Practically speaking, this rule asks everyone to love. It does it with the very voice of one´s religion through the presence of this sentence, which is none other than one of the "seeds of the Word," that is, principles of truth that are present in different faiths.