The Wings of Unity dialogue and collaboration project turns 2 years old, as the fifth international seminar takes place at Sophia

On 16th April 2018, the Sophia University Institute hosted the fifth session of the dialogue and collaboration project named Wings of Unity, which, for the past two years, has involved scholars and experts from both the Catholic and the Shia world. The project has been promoted by the IUS, the Islamic Centre of England, London, and the Risalat International Institute, Qum. Co-directed by Piero Coda and Mohammed Shomali, this joint endeavour now celebrates two years: a period that has inaugurated innovative pathways in interreligious dialogue through seminars, public conferences, summer schools and publications.

This time around, the Sophia Main Hall welcomed about forty people, Catholic and Shia scholars and students from various Middle Eastern countries, Europe, Africa and North America, who animated the work sessions. The seminar focused on the role of the mission in prophecy and in religions today, moving from the Christian tradition and Islam, in the atmosphere of deep unity and capacity to listen to the other that characterises the methodology and soul of the project.

The session was inaugurated by Mohammad Shomali, with an intense moment of prayer, and by Piero Coda, IUS President, with an analysis on the steps taken so far and on the meaning of the project: “We are living the joy of meeting and moving ahead together at such a tragic moment for humanity: our joy is therefore also a responsibility, and it demands a spiritual, cultural and social revolution of us”. He went on: “Wings of Unity is a treasure that God entrusted to us. It was born out of a mutual alliance pact that we renew today. Today, we want to learn from one another, to listen to what God has said in our religions through the prophets. And, in order to listen to God, we will listen to one another: each one of us is the echo of the word that God has said”.

The day saw contributions from Vincenzo Di Pilato, a professor of interreligious dialogue who presented some elements for a Christian theology of the history of the prophecy; Shahnaze Safieddine, a Shia researcher (and a visitor at Sophia last autumn, where she lay the foundations of her doctoral research) who spoke of the truth as an essential element for our mission and our dialogue; Roberto Catalano, the Co-Director of the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue of the Focolare Movement, who recalled the mission and example in Chiara Lubich’s prophecy; and, in conclusion, Mohammad Shomali himself, who focused on the mission of the prophets and the mission of religions in Islam.

The session ended with a solemn moment of silence, which united participants in thoughts and prayers – for humanity and the difficult moment it faces – and in a dimension of hope. This inspired participants to offer a different interpretation of the metaphor that is often used to describe challenging situations: “Someone might say that we are travelling through a dark tunnel and that there will be light at the end, but the reality is that the light is already accompanying us: we don’t just see it at the end, outside the tunnel, because the experience we are living is already a ray of light”.

The study day took place within the context of a three-day visit, from 15th to 18th April, to the Loppiano International Centre, where Sophia has its headquarters. The visit, among other things, gave our group of Muslim friends the opportunity to experience the original model of multicultural cohabitation that characterises the Centre and is inspired by the charism of Chiara Lubich.

The project continues: in December this year, Sophia will promote an entire week of training for young Christians and Muslims on the theme of unity and dialogue. The objective is to continue educating leaders of today and of tomorrow, leaders who are capable of going beyond the existing divisions and build a worldwide society in which the experience of God can be a place and a message of unity and peace.

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