The Lenten journey of this year in the city of Pioltello appears something unique but certainly, it is the suggestion given by our dear Pope Francis to make the Church alive.

In fact, the theme of the meeting was “To listen to recognize – Spirituality in religions”. This theme accompanied us throughout the Lent. It was also comprised of debates and insights open to all persons on Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, but also ideas on the present-day relationship of the Catholic Church with other religions, following perfectly the proposals of organizing a committee that involved people from all over the city of Pioltello. These were the occasions that awakened us concretely a journey of communion and a culture of dialogue, as it was declared by a document on human fraternity for world peace and living together signed by the Holy Father and the Great Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi

Sharing fully these stimulations of openness to other religions, building a mentality of dialogue and fraternity that can only begin with mutual knowledge. We listened to a Muslim woman Theologian, Yamina Salah, president of the Association of Muslim Women of Italy on Thursday 21st March evening at the auditorium of Schuster in Pioltello (AMWI).

I came to know Yamina about one and half a year ago in the house of Don Giampiero Alberti, a priest from the Diocese of Milan who for about 30 years had been working for the interreligious dialogue and in particular with the Islamic world.

I began to participate in the informal meetings at the house of Don Giampiero together with one of our sisters. It deals all about the Christian and Muslim women who desire to share, discuss and pray together among themselves about the many values and themes that are essential to our religions. A small group of about 10 people were formed, coming from different professional backgrounds and nationalities like religious, missionaries, nurses, cultural mediators, theologians, mothers, brides, teachers. They are of Somalis, Italians, Algerians, Moroccans, Jordanians, Lebanese and etc.

The group was named as “MARYAM GROUP” in honour of Mary of Nazareth. The meetings were developed and inspired by the experiences lived by the Tibhirine monks with their Muslim brothers in the year 90s in Algeria.

The journey we made together helped and encouraged us. Therefore, it came spontaneously to propose the same to our Pioltello community to listen to Yamina and to learn more about the spirituality of Islam. She studied in Algiers at the University of Islamic Sciences with a particular focus on the principles of Islam, thus giving all her intellectual and spiritual wisdom to be able to give reasons and explanations to her faith in which she believes.

Yamina made us to know a little more about Allah. He is the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Creator … She could spend a lot of time for us to sing and pray in Arabic, Italian and some of the words suras of the Koran that are essential for her. We could see from her voice her emotions when she spoke to us of the importance of obtaining and imploring from Allah the light to walk on the right path and to be able to witness in everyday life through concrete attitudes, gestures and words of forgiveness, brotherhood, encouragement … I think that all the participants of the meeting really came to know better the values that we Christians have in common with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Thanks to her exciting words and the sharing of her religious experience.

This perceived harmony was the same that I had been able to experience by myself when Yamina came to visit us at our Satellite community to prepare for the meeting. I felt a harmony of heart, of sensitivity, which made me tear in my womb during this preparations of exchanging our ideas and reflections on how to sketch out the evening conference. It is maybe a little like the encounter between Maria and Elizabeth narrated to us in the Gospel of Luke. Two women apparently so different but concretely so close.

Even the dinner we shared together at the same evening before the conference with Yamina in our apartment between women of different nationalities and beliefs made us to experience the beauty and the desire to witness and helped us to know that living together our diversity is a great wealth and a gift … This has urged us to be more convinced us to witness of a profound friendship, a mutual help and a peaceful coexistence between us are really possible, because they are the fruits of the Spirit.

Congratulations to all those who commit themselves to put together, to grow in harmony, in admiration, understanding and closeness to humanity. Congratulations to us women, thanks to our feminine spirit because we have the advantage of living and inspiring others.

Sr. Rosella Locatelli – Province of Italy

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