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Unity in adversity

The most important message conveyed by the recent deadly and destructive calamities that occurred in our country is the universality of humanitarian and charitable spirit; that people all over the world regardless of race, color or creed are ready and willing to help each other in times of extreme difficulties and sufferings. The care and concern shown to the victims of the recent disasters by men and women of goodwill coming from many parts of the world, establish beyond doubt that there can be unity among all peoples on this planet earth.

Indeed even without the occurrence of such kind of disasters, movements for unity among all peoples on earth have already been on-going. These are movements and organizations engaged in various activities and projects promoting universal peace and brotherhood. Worth mentioning here and now is the international ecclesial movement known as “Focolare” founded by Chiara Lubich in 1943 at the height of World War II when she was only 23 years old.

Ms. Lubich, a well known Catholic activist in Italy founded the movement with the help of some friends after examining Christ’s Gospel message “that all may be one” and realizing that “we were born for these words, for unity, to contribute to its fulfillment in this world”.  Focolare which means fireplace, or hearth, or family fireside in Italian, consists of “small communities of lay volunteers” seeking to contribute “to peace and to the evangelical unity of all people in every social environment”. The movement is now active in 180 countries including the Philippines, with about 100,000 members.

Young people were always present and actively involved in this movement since its beginnings. But its special place started to emerge in 1967 when Chiara Lubich launched her motto: “Youths of the world unite”. The launching actually laid the groundwork for the establishment of Focolare’s “Gen Movement” (or movement for the new generation) in 1967 and the “Youth for a United World” in 1985.

These young people strive in many ways to “build universal brotherhood, heal the divisions existing within families, between generations and between different social groups. They are engaged in international campaigns to support peace and fraternity in local and global public events which gives testimony that it is possible to live as brothers and sisters. They are also engaged in simple gestures of solidarity and dialogue with those close to them on a daily basis: the needy and the marginalized, acquaintances and family. In each of these neighbors, they try to see a brother and a sister to welcome”…. They are aware that the unity they believe in and live for is not a mere human project but the plan of God for humanity: “That all may be one” (John 17:21)

Currently, Focolare is introducing an educational project on violence-prevention for young adults. The main idea of the project is “to strengthen positive values, confidence and team work” among young people between the ages of 17 and 30 scattered across five continents, of different ethnicities, nationalities and culture… all united by the desire to make humankind more and more into a single family where the personal identity of every individual is honored”.

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For this purpose, Focolare later on formed an international performing arts group known as “Gen Rosso” which was born in 1966 in Florence from an idea of Chiara Lubich who gave a red drum set (hence the name “Rosso”) to a group of young people in order to communicate through music, values on peace and universal brotherhood, and to contribute to the realization of a more united world. Presently it has 18 members from nine nations including the Philippines.

In recent years, Gen Rosso has collaborated with various organizations on different projects, the latest of which is a violence prevention project entitled “Strong without Violence”. This project has been carried out successfully with edifying results in various institutions like schools, prisons, factories around the world. Later on, this educational project has been renamed “Streetlight: Spark for Change” carried out in various institutions in Europe and around the world, in collaboration with a German Association known as “Starkmacher” and the Caritas of Cologne Germany.

“Streetlight” recognizes that what drives a young person to be violent and to become a bully is the intrinsic desire to assert oneself by overpowering others through one’s strength. At times, some people do it for popularity and acceptance. So the musical tells the true story of a young African American living in a Chicago ghetto in the late 1960’s. He finds himself caught between enemy lines in a gang war, and eventually pays with his own life for his decision to renounce violence by choosing the ideal of a united world. It is indeed an ideal vehicle for reaching young people at an emotional level with the aid of music, movement and creative workshop activities, and to impart a sustained, heightened awareness on the topic of “everyday violence” and “inner strength”. “If you are strong, you don’t need violence”.

Focolare and its latest project among the young people are worth mentioning here and now because it will be having a “Philippine tour” in 2014. Gen Rosso will be coming to Cebu in February 19-22, 2014 to collaborate with local schools for a workshop that will culminate in a concert for public presentation. The workshops will emphasize on shared activities to acquaint young people with their own strengths and talents enabling them to creatively deal with existential issues that they face today.

Then on March 11-14, 2014, Gen Rosso will also conduct the same project in the Lapulapu City jail. It will hold several simultaneous workshops for two days with selected inmates inside the prison premises ending in a performance of their musical on the 3rd day.  Participating in a cultural training project of this nature will indeed greatly benefit the inmates as already shown by its success in Europe.

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