TELL ME ABOUT ISLAM
Today we are starting a new column entitled “Tell me about Islam” which aims to be a space dedicated especially to the encounter and hospitality received and given with the Muslim women met in the various countries in which we operate. A tool per getting to know one more of the many positive values of this religion and go beyond the stereotypes that often close doors and raise walls. We have found many open doors, and we want to tell you about them…
HOSPITALITY RECEIVED AND GIVEN
Since the war broke out in Ukraine the media started talking a lot about hospitality: the Western Church has moved, perhaps more than other moments, to welcome and house, thousands of refugees fleeing the war. Now, this is not a strange fact. What is strange, however, is that while many have opened up to hospitality towards those who are more or less similar to us, many doors still close, as well as many borders, and continue to build walls, fences with barbed wires and raised. One remains indifferent, or almost so, to the rest of God’s people, whatever God it is, who seek refuge. Nothing to say, we are good at welcoming and hosting and we, as the Italian people, are proud of the solidarity we carry in our hearts, but which, let’s face it, remains a bit sectarian at times.
We are speaking, for example, of the Muslims who have arrived and are still arriving in large numbers in our countries. What is the hospitality we give here? How do we collaborate with them? What projects of dialogue and work for a positive and integrated citizenship could be devised together?
Needless to say that in the past, even the Italian people were welcomed and hosted in many ways and you don’t need to go too far in time to think about that hospitality, to that welcome and to our having also been refugees and seekers of fortune and hope in other countries. Let’s think instead of kids who leave Italy today to find work elsewhere, or to continue studies, or to do research and career….
Even we Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate live continuously this double aspects of being welcomed and to welcome, if only for our difference of origin, of culture, and our meeting together in a country where we don’t belong, “guests and sisters” as our Constitutions say.
Hospitality given and received, because we realize that we are not necessarily welcome in the countries where we operate, at least not by everyone but we always experience the joy of being traveling companions of so many people who welcome us, into their homes, sharing the little or much they have, their joys and their hardships, looking for people, sisters to talk to and by whom to be welcomed in turn, precisely in the diversity, in their problems, in their fragility and in their joys.
Mutual questions often arise, a gift for each other and vice versa, a gift of deeper knowledge of being, of the country in which we live or that we meet, of the culture of the other, questions of meaning and spiritual research, questions that say the desire to make room, to open doors to new worlds, captivating, deeply, remaining what we are, but enriching ourselves with the diversity that the other brings with it. This is what happens with the various activities of meetings and exchange that the Spirit suggests to us where we are.
We have opened our doors together with the local Churches through what we call the “dialogue of hospitality”. Yes, the dialogue of hospitality because in Christianity and Islam there are gestures, even without speaking, that tell of a God who wants to welcome us, host us, embrace us. And it is precisely in what we could today call the etiquette of the guest that the spiritual authors of Islam already in the very first centuries, indicated gestures and behaviors to welcome the one who arrives, even a foreigner, making him participate in his own table, receiving him and hosting him in his own tent, then in his own home, as sent by God. In the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed the example of Abraham is reported, recognized by Muslims as a father in the faith, who had a house with four doors, one on each side to receive everyone: and it is also told of how, before sitting down, he used to go in search of companions and travelers to be able to share his Meal with them. Even the Koran narrates several times the meeting of Abraham with the unknown guests, who will later turn out to be messengers sent by God. The hospitality given to them and the solicitude of Abraham also show, in the Holy Book of Islam, the central place of one of the attitudes of the good Muslim. Know to get closer and understand, to learn, why not, to rediscover our values in the encounter with the different other. So let us open our doors and let ourselves be questioned.
Sr. Marta Arosio, General Direction
Sr. Marta is a Missionary Sister of the Immaculate since 2010; in 2014 she reaches North Africa where she stays for four years. Called back to Italy, she deepened the study of the Arabic language and Islamic studies at the PISAI (Pontifical for Arab and Islamic Studies) in Rome where she obtained her licentiate in 2021.