Emanuela Carponi, an Italian Focolarina, who now resides in Mariapolis Peace in Tagaytay learned from Chiara Lubich how Jesus Forsaken is the golden key for building unity and for re-establishing unity when it is broken. This is absolutely true in the field of dialogue with Christians of other churches and with the faithful of other religions. This experience was shared during the World Media Congress last October 11, 2016 in Tagaytay City.
The first difficulty I had to overcome was my shyness, because as a foreigner, I was afraid to come forward to express my opinions or to follow my first impulses.
Having lived in India for 14 years, I can share about our experience of dialogue in India with people of other faiths – ours is I would like to share not so much about dialogue at the theological or philosophical level (the one of symposia with very well organized meetings), but about the so- called dialogue of life.
Chiara had always encouraged us to practice it in our daily lives, living as we were with people of different faiths present in the same offices, or schools, and neighborhoods, as society in India is multicultural.
The first difficulty I had to overcome was my shyness, because as a foreigner, I was afraid to come forward to express my opinions or to follow my first impulses. I was wondering … “Will it be appropriate for me to act in this way, or would it sound strange to this people? What will they think?”
If, for instance, I shared my views during a discussion at work, people might think that … as a European… I wanted to impose my thoughts.
Perhaps it would be better if I kept quiet and not say anything…
But if I have given in to those thoughts, I would just have been bogged down in my fears or prejudices. I could see some of my Italian colleagues withdrawing into their own world and closing themselves up, afraid to confront diversity. But in this way one only builds walls.
Thus, my guideline was the thought: if what I was to say or do is inspired by love, I must overcome these reservations. However, the courage to do so sprang only from a personal love for Jesus Forsaken.
I used to think that even Jesus no longer knew what to do when the father left him in such a painful situation without stepping in… So then, looking at Jesus forsaken, I was able to overcome my own feelings. In varying situations sometimes I would speak up, at times I just kept quiet. Gradually, I realized that my colleagues were interacting with me normally, and often without thinking that I was not Indian like them. They had full trust in me.
With one particular Indian colleague, I had a very sincere relationship. She used to confide in me and try to see the problems of the office with different eyes. She would tell me: “I noticed that you are able to start again every day with a new strength; even though yesterday was a “disaster” in the office and we had lost control because of too much stress. The next day you don’t remember the negative, on the contrary you always urge us to start again.” At that point I had the chance to speak about my goal which is to believe in the power of togetherness, with a desire to reach the point of working together as a team, all for all.
Often there was the need to ask pardon for some misunderstanding, and this gave us the chance to see each other new. At times, loving my colleagues concretely meant stopping my work in moments of stress when everybody only wanted to finish his own job quickly, because there was a lot of tension in the room and offering some food or biscuits to others –with the sensitivity that the food I offered had to be vegetarian, out of respect for their religion, or leaving my desk and doing some pending job that nobody was willing to do. In my heart, I would say, “for you Jesus”, for you present in them, but as a result, little by little they too sensed something, as they were aware of my desire to create a sort of harmony among us, and eventually they also wanted to do the same. Once I presented this colleague with a book by a Hindu professor, a great friend of the Focolare, whose title was: Human Values: Definition and Interpretation. I liked this book a lot and it was a great help for me to understand better the roots of their culture and beliefs. She appreciated the gift very much and our relationship became much closer.
Then when I and my Focolare would organize some events like Run 4 Unity or An evening for Nepal (after the Earthquake there), all my colleagues also offered to collaborate.
One of them even translated into Hindi a brochure about the life and the profile of Chiara Lubich, without asking for any compensation.
Another opportunity for this dialogue of life came through the relationship with our neighbors where our Focolare center was located. There were many occasions to live and share with them. We would not miss preparing and sharing with them some typical meals for the feast of Diwali or for Christmas.
Once, to celebrate the end of Ramadan, a Muslim lady sent us a typical dish
She had prepared with a lot of love. On our part, since we were three Italians in the focolare house, we often prepared a lasagna or a pizza dish to share with them.
A very special experience was my last meeting with the professor who had written the book on Human values.
Professor Satya Vrat Shastri is a scholar in the Sanskrit field; he has already received 100 awards from the government and from different universities for his work and wisdom.
Over the years our rapport grew deeper and stronger. We were invited to his house, first only on some special occasions or when we wanted to invite him to our symposia, but later also to celebrate his birthday or their wedding anniversary. This made the relationship with him grow to the point that we could begin sharing our spiritual experiences. I could feel that we were really children of the same Heavenly father.
Lately, when I visited them to inform them that I would be leaving India for the Philippines, Mrs. Shastri was quite moved and confided that she was losing a daughter. Meanwhile, the professor
Recollected himself and then said: “when there is a call from God we have to follow his voice.” From Tagaytay, I then sent them my greetings and he has replied with this beautiful message:
“Dear Emanuela, what a joy to hear from you! Not a day passes when we do not talk about you. You have become part of our family, and are one of the greatest gift of God to us.”
Yours affectionately, Satya Vrat Shastri
I could say the same about them. They are one of the greatest gifts of God to me.
Every time I meet someone (especially in the Catholic environment) who is not so open to interreligious dialogue I think: “Oh, you don’t know what you are missing in life!”
How very grateful I am indeed to Chiara Lubich who has opened my heart and given me the opportunity to have such a deep relationship with people of other faiths, so much so that I can testify that the dream of Jesus “that all may be one” is no longer only a far-away dream, but also one that can become a reality.