A passion for othersThe interview of the newspaper “La Sicilia” with Emilia Guarnieri, on the occasion of the presentation in Catania on May 11
A convention titled “An encounter that generates other encounters: The Rimini Meeting from Cairo to Tokyo” was held Friday, May 11 in Catania with the participation of Emilia Guarnieri, President of the Meeting.
We publish the interview with Emilia Guarnieri by the newspaper “La Sicilia”:
The red thread of friendship between Rimini, Tokyo, and Cairo
The Meeting again visits the Shingon monks of Japan and Egypt
Maria Ausilia Boemi
From certainty and the strength of one’s own identity, specifically Christian identity, is born not the ability to tolerate diversity but to love and become passionate about other people’s journey. “And if it is true that in the Christian experience there is a capacity for embracing and judging all of reality as Fr. Giussani taught us, this is what the Meeting for friendship amongst people is putting into practice.”
This is how the president of the Foundation Meeting, Emilia Guarnieri, unravels in Catania, upon invitation of the Friends of Atlantis in collaboration with the Foundation on subsidiarity, the red thread that unites Rimini, Cairo, and Tokyo under the presence of the mystery and of the awareness that diversity is a value. “Recently,” she explains, “we met the Buddhist monks of Mount Koya.”
This friendship was born in 1897 from the accidental encounter between Fr. Giussani, in visit to Japan, and then-abbot of the Shinong monks, Shodo Habukawa: “These two great men,” stressed Emilia Guarnieri, “shared their great attention to education, the yearning for mystery and the absolute, the passion for man and the young, and the preoccupation for the laicization and secularization of society: and so a great friendship was born. Back then we invited the abbot to come to the Meeting (it was 1988) and since then he has come twelve times.
A few months ago, thanks to the Italian Ambassador to Japan, Vincenzo Petron, we went there, stopping first in Tokyo and then at the monastery.” And at the monastery the Italians understood what the abbot meant when he told them that after Fr. Giussani’s death that he prayed for the priest daily: “When we entered in their sacred place,” says the president, moved, “we saw the pictures of John Paul II, Fr. Giussani, and Fr. Francesco Ricci. And during their prayers at a certain points these names were pronounced in Italian.”
What Fr. Giussani represents for men who are so different in culture, religion, and traditions, makes one reflect: “As Abbot Habukawa has always told us,” stressed Emilia Guarnieri, “Fr. Giussani was for him the sign of the presence of the mystery in life. And I can say the same of the abbot, who this year will be present at the Meeting once more. These two men met each other because of the need for mystery, the infinite, and the absolute of which man’s heart is made.”
A similar friendship, albeit one that develops differently, is the one that ties the Rimini Meeting to Cairo. Here, by the way, next November the second edition of the Cairo Meeting will take place (last year it did not happen because of the events of the “Arab Spring”). “In 2006,” says Emilia Guarnieri, “we invited an Egyptian Professor, Wael Farouq, met by one of our friends who studied in Cairo, to the Meeting.”
And attending the Meeting, the Egyptian professor was “struck,” as the president stresses, “particularly by one aspect. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘I experienced how diversity, instead of being simply tolerated, can become a value because the different identity of the other urges you to go deeper into your own identity.’” In the following years—before the fell of Mubarak—the Egyptian professor went back to Rimini bringing with him other friends (the vice-president of the Constitutional Court and a judge in Cairo): “We think,” they told us, “that what we see happening here, as unity among men and as spiritual and cultural depth, could be something good also for our reality”: from here the decision to have a Cairo Meeting, of which there will be a second edition in November.
“Our Egyptian friends started a foundation,” explains Guarnieri, “Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox: all realities that have publicly taken on a responsibility toward society.” The Egyptian society is in great turmoil: “Precisely,” says Emilia Guarnieri. “We have a very dramatic perception of what is happening in Egypt, but in truth the experience that they are living there is one of great hope, aware as they are that something new has happened. As Farouq says, these people are not fighting for freedom, but they have already experienced it.” This is a ray of hope evident in front of the possibility of a religious conflict: “Yes, absolutely: they know that a religious war is something different from what they are living and with the Cairo Meeting they have already experienced it and put it into practice.”