It is not a normal thing to see three of humanity’s great religious traditions gather under one roof – in a university auditorium. But it happened on Friday, 20 February when the Institute was visited by Dr. Mohammad Shomali, International Institute for Islamic Studies of Qum in Iran, and his wife, Mahnaz Heidarpour, who is a guest of the town of Loppiano, and likewise, Buddhist Monk, Phra Thavorn Tongrattana, from Thailand.
“We cannot disregard the importance, though symbolical, of this moment: while humanity is torn by conflicts, in this Hall today, we are the protagonists of a new city in the making”– said the Rector, Piero Coda, in his welcoming speech.
Students and professors listened deeply to the words of Dr. Shomali who, on referring to the name of the Institute, underlined how the concept of wisdom means a lot more than knowledge: “We can listen to the knowledgeable words of many, but the quality of wisdom can only come from God.”
There was an extraordinary climate of reciprocity, simplicity and affection: photos were shown, memoirs and words that challenge life and thought were shared. Words cannot express the depth of the dialogue session which all wished would not end. Some moments strongly hit the mark especially when speaking of the planet’s thirst for peace, Pierre Cabeza, a Congolese student asked for a message of hope. Speaking on behalf of Buddhist tradition, “Ardent Light” – as Chiara Lubich loved to call Tongrattana Thavorn – affirmed that the real drama is to live as a prisoner of one’s own schemes: “Instead we have to regard the other as is, and open yourself to his values, listen to the voice that guides you towards him. Take his heart into yours… We have to love with our hearts. This is how peace is built.”
Also Dr. Shomali fully agreed with these words: the root of what makes us suffer lies in the fact that we are divided. “When the light of Islam, Christianity, of the different religions and traditions will reflect the absolute light which is God, no corner will remain in darkness… Our responsibility is to become true brothers and sisters, because when there is light, we do not need to battle with the darkness.”
“Your presence here is certainly a sign of friendship” – Maria Fernanda Revollo, student representative said, “but above all it says how much we need you. You regard Sophia not so much as a destination but where you can bring your contribution, and something would be missing without you,” she affirmed with conviction. “Come back soon to Sophia with your Buddhist youth, your Muslim youth… With all of them, we want to learn about fraternity.”
Right after this moment, we felt that same atmosphere of Sophia’s founding moment: “What you have given us today” – commented Piero Coda – “is something we cannot keep for ourselves: we are witnesses to the fact that a culture of wisdom is possible... there can be a place that opens out not only to fruitful exchange between different disciplines, but also to different religious traditions.” He then invited the guests to return next year to hold some seminars dedicated to an in-depth experience of faith, besides the first Italian Summer School on interreligious dialogue which Sophia will organize in Asia, Philippines in July 2016.
As a further sign of this mutual trust, Luce Ardente cited some words that Buddha had pronounced, and asked the audience to repeat them together: “If two of you love one another as a mother loves her son, then there will no longer be war on earth, but peace.”
Once again, the key theme was Chiara Lubich’s message that had marked the life of these men and women. Dr. Shomali so rightly said, “Wisdom by nature is a heritage of the entire human race,” and Piero Coda concluded,“We have all been touched by a ray of this wisdom, which is the countenance of Chiara, transcending the various religions and civilizations to build a rainbow of light, and build peace.”
This is also the reality of Sophia: a school of dialogue, a place that nurtures the vocation to peace that lies in each one of us, and where we learn to be first of all, a person, and builders of universal fraternity.
By: Cristina Montoya