Nadia and Kadija are from two cities in Northern Italy. You can notice their ethnic, religious and cultural differences just by observing them. Nadia is Italian and Christian while Kadija is Tunisian and Muslim. Their experience of social cohesion began in school and has had unexpected results. Among these was Nadia’s degree dissertation in political Science about Muslim women, which dealt with the question of Muslim women’s wearing of the veil.
Theirs was only one of the several experiences recounted on November 25, in Brescia, where about 1,300 Christians and Muslims gathered for a day meeting with the title Common Pathways for Christian and Muslim families, organized by the Focolare Movement and various Islamic associations and communities.
It was a follow-up of a meeting in the little town of the Focolare called Loppiano last October 2010, when 600 Muslims and Christians from all over Italy came together for a moment’s reflection upon the common pathways followed by people of different faiths and traditions. The “Workshop Brescia 2012” affirmed that the journey to universal fraternity among people of different religions, promoted by Focolare founder Chiara Lubich a decade ago, has taken a decisive step ahead. Indeed, it seems that there are already many experiences of fostering social cohesion and preparing the next generation for dialogue. During a round table discussion, which included two Imams, Kamel Layachi and Youssef Sbai, there was talk about the daily problems that families of both traditions have to face.
Focolare President Maria Voce, on a trip to France for a Social Studies Event, was present through a message where she promised her prayers to “God the almighty and “common pathways” so that they may reveal the huge contributions those communities of believers … can offer to the fabric of society wherever they may be. She went on to say that “that they are like the shoots of a generation that create a sense of family and a harmonious relationship among people, which respect their rights and duties, beyond any cultural and religious differences.”
The event also included moments of meditation upon the value of the family according to Muslim and Christian tradition. Real experiences of daily life from where people lived were told and there were also moments of artistic beauty. One of the most moving of these was led by Harif Abdelghani from Morocco. He performed a folk song and all joined in the signing. And then the hall was filled with a party atmosphere as 130 children and young people presented dances and songs they had learned in the morning.
There were also moments of intense community prayer, held separately by Christians and Muslims. They spoke, furthermore, about some problems relating to immigration, considered from the perspective of those who face the trauma of travel, the worry about finding a place to live, a resident’s permit, work, a new language, while they often suffer discrimination, fear, doubt, suspicion, and on the other hand, also seen from the perspective of those who see people arriving with new ways of talking, dressing, eating, behaving, and who must now face an unknown culture.
They also examined issues “in the light of God.” God’s presence in the lives of individuals and families can truly change things. This applies to personal relations within the family group, as well as to relationship with the world outside, one’s neighbours, colleagues at work and companions at school or college. Above all, God’s presence can lead to important shared choices: “We are leaving here,” Imam Layachi affirmed at the conclusion, “with the promise that Christians and Muslims can act together in front of God: to be servants of the common good in our neighborhoods, our cities and our countries.”