Cristina Montoya, a researcher in social communications and politics at the Sophia University Institute, offers a retrospective reading of the fruits of Chiara Lubich’s spirituality in the tormented peace process her country, Colombia, is undergoing
«The contrary of peace in Colombia is the armed conflict that has been going on for more than 50 years, the second longest in current history. It is a clash that has taken on multiple dimensions, and is fruit of inequality and political asymmetry, blown up to the extremes due to the establishment of a logic of illicit economies such as narcotraffic. More than 4.5 million people have been evacuated, 220,000 assassinated, and 25,000 officially registered as “desaparecidos.”
But we cannot consider the conflict only as that being fought on the front: it affects everything, takes over the social and cultural processes, public life, and daily interactions, and wounds the lives of families.
When one lives in a country which for three generations has gained the renown as a protagonist of the social bond of violence, one has to come to grips with a true anthropological change: the logic of giving, trust, and gratuity seem to have disappeared. And yet the war has not consumed everything: there are numerous initiatives, creativity, groups that work to rebuild the social weft, and the faithfulness of God who is not absent in every historical moment.
A newpaper thrown into a waste bin brought good news to a Columbian religious who read that there were people who seriously believed in the Gospel and tried to live it. At almost 78 years of age, he was filled with life which immediately became contagious. The story of Chiara Lubich and her first companions, who – like them – were living in other places of the world, triggered new hope.
The stories took on the countenance of people like Rosa who lives in the outskirts of Medellín, one of the most struck regions. Her son had been assassinated by a friend and the normal answer would have been revenge, but believing in life means courage and forgiveness. It was a wound that continues to sting, but her answer was to live for that district. And this signifies peace.
Another one is Nubia, who had to escape at dawn since the guerrillas had occupied her town. She left her home and fields: all that she had. Pregnant, and with a small baby and an adolescent, upon arriving in a new town, she lost her husband and elder boy in a construction site where they were working in precarious conditions, an absurdity that was so hard to believe. The love of one of the Focolare communities gave her support for years, and the strength to start a new life.
Peace in itself is not goods, justice has to be warrantied, and the causes have to be blocked and fought. This is what Gabrielina and Macedonio did, donating their poor house for the construction of a social centre which then became an infirmary, after-school centre, and the seat of projects of urban architectural renewal.
Other types of future had to be created, educating people towards other possible worlds. From the communion of goods, a kindergarten was created to receive the poor children, and today it has become a high school with more than 400 students and an educational offer centered on love and the generosity to build a peaceful and pluralist Colombia.
Many initiatives have sprung up since no population can come in contact with Chiara Lubich and still remain inactive as before. Her charism which leads us to discover and believe in Love, produces a change in mentality where we discover our capacity to love, and become subjects capable of peace.
As affirmed by Rafael Grasa, President of the International Peace Institute Catalunya and guest professor in Medellin, «peace begins from the people, and continues with interpersonal relationships, and groups. Peace is dynamic and its fulfillment touches the entire harmony of the human being with oneself, the others, and nature.»
But now that there will be the signing of that long-desired peace treaty with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Havana by the end of the month, we need to relearn how to live it – and like creation which is awaiting the birth pangs – the country is now awaiting a stronger manifestation of the sons of this charism.»