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SMFocolari receives the visit of Dr. Shomali and his delegation - 29/06

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

From 26 to 30 June, we gladly received the visit of Professor Shomali and his delegation to Mariapolis Ginetta. They were days of particular rich experience of fraternity.

A great friend of the Focolare Movement, Dr. Shomali has a long journey in the interreligious dialogue field. Sparing no effort to promote understanding and unity wherever he goes, Dr. Shomali has determinedly taken for himself the work for unity: a prominent mission.

In fact, during one of his meetings in Mariapolis Ginetta, Dr. Shomali said with heartfelt sincerity that if God asked him to go to another planet to work for unity, there he would go.

The delegation of Shīʿa Muslim friends was composed by people from Canada, Argentina, Europe and the United States. They came to Brazil to visit the Mariapolis Ginetta and to hold some important meetings in the field of Christian-Shīʿa Muslim dialogue.

Some of the events and activities that took place during those days were:

  • Visit to the Mariapolis Ginetta Centre - including the Centenary exhibition of Chiara Lubich and that of Ginetta Calliari.

  • Participation in the Holy Catholic Mass celebrated by Bishop Biasin on 26 June.

  • Christian-Muslim (Shīʿa Community) Seminar on 27/06 (morning and afternoon)

  • Meeting with the inhabitants of the Mariapolis Ginetta - 27/06 (evening)

  • Visit to the House of Reconciliation in São Paulo - 28/06

  • Visit to the social projects run by SMFocolari (Jardim Margarida Social Centre and Casa da Acolhida Recomeçar) - 29/06

  • Visit to the bakery Espiga Dourada - 29/06

29th June : dedicated to visits to social projects

At the Jardim Margarida Social Centre, Dr. Shomali and his committee had a great reception prepared by the team: first, a presentation of the team and the group of visitors.

Afterwards, Sérgio Previdi, Executive Director of SMFocolari, presented the work of the institution as the social arm of the Focolare Movement, already familiar to our visitors. In this sharing about the beginnings of the SMF and the values that drive the organisation, life experiences were particularly relevant: true testimonies that fraternity breaks down all kinds of barriers.

As the story was told of how the institution developed and grew in response to the needs that arose over the years, one could see in the eyes and faces of our guests how much they lived and understood these situations, how much they understood with their hearts.

Then, they took a "tour of the Centre" and, as since it was a regular day of activities, they were able to talk a little more with the staff and interact with the children. In the midst of the joy of the games and of being able to be with visitors who came from so far away, a boy approaches our two Muslim friends and offers them a small flower: an unforgettable and meaningful scene that represented love, welcome, understanding.

Roseli Pimentel, educational counsellor commented on the day:

"Dr Shomali's visit to the project was important and profound! The presentation of the Project with this "resonance box" ... gave a whole new tone to our very way of existing and dealing with social promotion. The presence of Dr. Shomali opened my heart to believe in fraternity from a Muslim perspective. I realised that if we want to live in fraternity by promoting the dignity of the other, we must make room for the "other". We often hear about this, but we were able to experience how true welcome made us discover nuances of the Charism of Unity in a powerful way!"

Sérgio Previdi - Executive Director - SMFocolari said:

"The visit of Dr. Shomali and delegation to the social projects of the SMFocolari, caused in me a great reflection. During the visit Dr. Shomali made the following comparison: we are together on the same ship, even if in different compartments, but in the same direction: universal brotherhood. He added that there are forces that want to pierce this ship, so that the goal is not reached. Hence the importance of working together by encouraging each other.

Seeing Dr. Shomali and his committee listening attentively to our staff, to our children and to the adult assited by the projetct, one could see the realisation of reciprocal love, translated into gestures such as playing with the children or being moved by the stories of those assisted. In the conversations during the visits to the projects and in the words of our Muslim friends, there was notling less than a divine atmosphere. At all times, we tried to emphasise the points that unite us, such as mutual love, collaboration, the reduction of social inequalities and, above all, the presence of God as Father of all humanity. The phrase: "Fraternity is the human face of God's love"[1] became even stronger in our hearts".

Dr. Shomali, as the whole group, would certainly like to be able to stay longer in each place in order to enter and possess every detail of so much experience. But time was already very tight... and each encounter requires time and attention.

Then a stop to visit the Espiga Dourada bakery: another strong moment where God's action was tangibly realised. A plan that developed in the 1980s with the "bread girls", as they were called (young people from various states of Brazil who came to Mariapolis to spend a period of formation promoted by the Focolare Movement) and who sold bread on the roadside.

With the passage of time and with the concrete help of various collaborators - not to mention for example our friend Paulo Lo Schiavo (who died of Covid) - the Espiga Dourada bakery grew and became a "must stop" for many. Along the years, many people wished to know more about bakery´s work, which acts as a non-profit organisation promoting courses and participating in partnerships aimed at promoting individuals and groups, especially young people in the region.

Adriana Valle, who started the activity with the first group of young people, comments that Dr Shomali's visit was very important for everyone and points out:

"It is always a strong experience to tell about God's work regarding Espiga Dourada, how everything happened and developed, also from the great faith of Ginetta Calliari (focolarina of the early days and co-founder of the Mariapolis that today bears her name). The various stories that illustrate the history of Espiga Dourada touched the hearts of our visitors. We realised that wherever a work, an action of God manifests itself, it's garnered and apreciated. Besides, there, in that atmosphere all wish to stay. We answered their questions and interacted as brothers and sisters".

Finally, just before lunchtime, we went to the Casa de Acolhida Recomeçar (for homeless people) in Vargem Grande Paulista. There, Maria José and Vanessa Melo (Social Workers and Coordinators of the House) were waiting for the visitors along with some of the people who are attended there. After a brief presentation on the history and purpose of the house, made by Maria José and Vanessa, there was a very spontaneous moment of presentations right there in the entrance courtyard.

At the end Dr. Shomali, assuring his prayers, said to Maria José that he would ask for much wisdom and light so that she can guide this activity, on which so many people depend.

Maria José, Social Worker at the Casa da Acolhida Recomeçar, writes:

"It was a moment of great joy to receive them at the Casa de Acolhida Recomeçar. They listened to us very attentively and asked questions. The Shīʿa community has always seemed distant to me, because I only heard about them in distant countries. But the Ideal of Unity brings us closer. Dr. Shomali understood Chiara Lubich's Charism of Unity and wishes that all those who accompany him also get to know it and live it."

Vanessa Melo, also a Social Worker at the Casa de Acolhida Recomeçar, commented: "Receiving the group of Muslim friends at the Casa de Acolhida made us realise that religion cannot be a reason for disunity between peoples and cultures, but rather for unity. We were also able to understand that the Focolare Movement has a very large dimension that breaks down barriers and Chiara Lubich has always lived this inter-religious dialogue".

For this enriching experience of fraternity, we are infinitely grateful to Dr. Shomali and his delegation. We wish them success in their activities and look forward to their return to Brazil whenever possible.


[1]Paul the Apostle: a worker who spreads the Gospel. Carlos Mesters. São Paulo: Paulus, 1991, p. 123

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