The Church in Outreach


“We can no longer call anyone a foreigner”


Chiara Lubich



 
In recent years, our European societies have been affected by significant patterns of migration from east to west and from south to north. This phenomenon has had a profound impact on the composition of our continent, bringing to our cities an increasing diversity. Walking through the streets in countries which, until a short while ago, were almost exclusively Christian, we can now see mosques and temples.
 
            At the same time, modern means of communication bring together individuals and peoples that geographically were very distant from one another; so much so that the personal choices of a western young person might be profoundly influenced by what happens in Asia or in Africa. No one is foreign to us any longer because we “see” them, we know about them.
 
            Furthermore, economic and financial globalisation has woven all our interests together, so that they are no longer separated from one another. Many current problems concern humanity as a whole, and no single nation can face them in isolation from the others. So we live in a world that has truly become, as people say, “a global village”, a new and complex village[...]
 
So what approach[...] can we adopt in order to build fraternity amongst everyone? One which presupposes, for those who have faith, a deep understanding of God for what he is: He is Love, God is Love, He is a Father. How could we imagine unity and fraternity in society and in the world without having a vision of humanity as one family? And how can we see the world as one without the presence of one Father of all?
 
We are called to open our hearts to God the Father, who certainly doesn’t abandon his children to their fate but who wishes to accompany them, to protect them and help them. He alone, who created them, is able to embrace them all and unite them.
 
To believe in his love is the first imperative[...]: to believe that we are personally and immensely loved by God, because He knows each one intimately and He cares for us in every way. The Gospel says that he even counts the hairs of our head (cf Luke 12:7), and the Qur’an says: “He is closer to us than our jugular vein” (50:16). Therefore, he will not leave the renewal of society to human efforts alone, but will take an active role.
 
Obviously, however, it’s not enough to believe in the love of God, and to have made as a consequence the great choice of Him as the Ideal of one’s life. The Father's presence and loving care calls each person to be a true child of God, who loves the Father in return, which means, day by day fulfilling the particular plan of love that He has thought of for each one. And we know that a father’s first wish is for his children to treat each other as brothers and sisters, to care for each other and love one another[...]
 
It has been written: “To know the other person's religion means to put yourself in the shoes of the other, seeing the world as he or she sees it, grasping what it means for the other to be Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu…”1This isn’t easy. It demands complete emptiness of self, that we put aside the ideas in our mind, the affections in our heart, all that is our own will so as to identify with the other person. It’s a matter of putting aside for the moment even what’s most important and most precious to us: our own faith, our own convictions, in order to be “nothing” in front of the other person, a “nothingness of love”. In this way we put ourselves in an attitude of learning and there’s always something to learn from everyone […]
 
Our complete openess and acceptance then predisposes the other person to listen tous.  We've seen in fact,that when someone dies to him or herself in order to 'make themselves one' with others, the others are struck bythis and often ask for an explanation. Then we can move on to what the Pope(John Paul II;n.d.r.) calls “proclaiming with respect”. “Respect” is the key word in every dialogue. So as to be true to God and to ourselves, and to be sincere with our neighbour, we share what our faith affirms without imposing anything on the other person, without any trace of proselytism, but only out of love.
 
However, through the Holy Spirit, who is always present whenever we love, whilst we are speaking, our brothers and sisters notice something spiritual in them coming alive, re-awakening in their hearts the “seeds of the Word” that the Second Vatican Council spoke of, which the love of God has placed in every religion. And while we are speaking, our brothers and sisters are able to identify some aspect of the purely human values which the Lord, in creating us, has planted in every person and in every culture.
 
 
From:  What future for a multicultural, multiethnic, multi-faith society?
London, 19 June 2004   Westminster Central Hall