“One Hundred Assisi”: not only a number, the revolution of encounter
Facundo, the young Argentinean who tries to bring the spirit of encounter and fraternity in more than 100 places in Argentina, to build relations that will give a soul to the economy.
“Mate, the Pope drinks mate. Mate, the Pope drinks mate”, a group of youth chanted in a choir from the first rows of an old theater in the city of Assisi (Italy) last September, as Francis’s white robe appeared on the stage. The closer he got to the platform, the more the intensity of the song of celebration for the presence of the Argentinean pope grew, who came to meet the youth of The Economy of Francesco.
Francis, however, was not the only Argentinean on the stage. Seated on a bench nearby was Facundo, a youth filled with enthusiasm who would have spoken to the Pope, to the youth and to the world about the audacity of a project he called “One Hundred Assisi”. “One hundred” to state a number. “Assisi” as the city, apart from being the home of Saint Francis, represents a message of peace, of encounter and fraternity. Putting together both the words, we have a project that wants to create bridges of encounter and dialogue in 100 different places in Argentina. In other words, to multiply the Franciscan spirit.
“This project was born on the 1st of May 2019, when Francis wrote a letter to the young economists, changemakers and entrepreneurs of the whole world, inviting them to reconsider the economy”, narrates Facundo to describe the genesis of his idea.
The invitation in fact was to “put in act a new model of economy, fruit of a culture of communion, based on fraternity and equity”, as written in the letter. Hearing these words as a call and commitment, Facundo started looking around himself: his immediate environment was the National University of Lomas de Zamora, where he works as a professor in the Literature and Philosophy Faculty. He recalls that there were already some social activities taking place that involved different institutions. But it was the Pope’s call that shaped the project. “When Francis launched that invitation, he gave us the boost we needed to give an overall framework to that activity“, Facundo underlines.
In fact, he gave it a shape. “We identified some points – two or three – of Francis’s proposals that, for us, are the most significant – explains the young Argentinean: the culture of encounter, listening and the polyhedron idea, of the work in synergy with the different sectors of the civil society in a united framework.”
What is “One Hundred Assisi”?
Every meeting that they organize in the country takes the name of “One Hundred Assisi”, but what does it consist of? Facundo explains this in simple words: “We provide academic resources, professional training, and legal and accounting advice to these institutions. At every meeting we make sure that the representatives of all the sectors are present: workers, labor unions, people’s economy workers, SME leaders, church representatives, local residents, and other social actors who, depending on the location of the meeting, may have an interest in participating”.
They have visited prisons, canteens, companies, cooperatives and organizations of the civil society. “In some places 300 people have participated, in others 10. Each one with their own priorities. Some are more interested in the environment, others in work. We talk about some of Francis’s encyclicals, particularly of the Laudato Si.” These meetings constituted such a novelty that the same institutions began calling and seeking them out to organize various “One Hundred Assisi” meetings.
From dialogue to action
At the periphery of Buenos Aires, separated from the city by a pollutes stream, there is the Isla Maciel, a suburb with a high poverty rate and gloomy late 19th-century buildings.
A group was formed there as well to organize a “One Hundred Assisi”. “We went there, by the stream – narrated Facundo – and we held a roundtable discussion. The members of a cooperative narrated their own work experience; many of them have a history of addiction behind them, and told us of how their work changed their lives. The residents of the neighborhood also participated and got acquainted. It often occurs: at times the residents do not know the local cooperatives and do know each other. The priest provided us with a spiritual framework, and we shared the work we do at the university.”
The first result was the creation of a work network. But it wasn’t the only one. “A beach in the area, at the shore of the stream, which was in a state of disrepair, has been restored. Following that meeting, we were able to establish connections with the municipal administration” that lead to concrete actions for the community.
The revolutionary scope of the meeting
Facundo’s story and the story of his project was attentively listened to by Pope Francis and by over a thousand youth present at the event. The Economy of Francesco. His testimony was a tangible sign of the creativity, the energy and enthusiasm with which the youth give life to actions that look toward a better future.
Even the economy needs it. “I always say that something so natural, so intrinsic to the human being, so basic as the encounter with the other, today, in 2022, is something revolutionary and transformative, and sometimes it is not enough”, says Facundo. It’s true, it is not enough. But the economy cannot change with occasional and isolated actions. Changing the economy requires processes, and in these processes leading to an economy with a soul, the culture of encounter is crucial. “What we do not realize of is that without the encounter we cannot reach any social, political or economic achievement. If we do not work on this first link that is the meeting, if we don’t sit down with each other, listen, bend a little and seek agreement on the big issues, the rest is impossible.”
“And that says a lot about what One Hundred Assisi is all about. When we will reach 100 meetings, we will change the name, to 200. It is a metaphor that represents the spirit that animates us. If we reach a100 meetings, it will be a great achievement, and from there we will continue because this process has no end. We will continue endlessly.”
One Hundred Assisi is a number and a city, but is above all a social project that, starting from a local dimension, plants seeds to transform the present and the future economy.