This weekend (between chasing clues) I went to a Focolare meeting. I was assigned the story by NUVO because 1) it was an interfaith event, and I am sort of their religion beat reporter, and 2) because Warith Deen Muhammad was coming and, obviously, as a Muslim, I would be excited to meet him.
I had never heard of Focolare, and in fact at first thought it had something to do with Folktales and story telling (Folkolore) or singing (Vocolary). As it turns out Focolare (which means hearth in Italian) is a Catholic organization, started by an Italian woman named Chiara Lubich. During WWII, Chiara began thinking about war and peace during the bombing of Italy and she became very convinced that we must start living Biblical commands to unity, both among Christians and between Chrisitans and peoples of other faiths. Focolare, then is dedicated to bringing people together. The methodology, though, is a bit different than other interfaith groups which discuss theology; this one focuses on a "dialogue of living" -- sharing stories, food, song, experiences, and spending time together to get to know one another as people, not just as spokespersons. In way, I was right about the folklore and the singing -- there were a lot of tales shared, and music was woven throughout the day.
The people attending were just lovely people, all around. Lots of Italian Catholics and black Muslims. One of my favorite parts was when an imam from Milwaukee talked about how this gathering showed people who could not get past nationalism how people from different countries could come together in peace and love, showed people who couldn't get past skin color or gender, how men and women, blacks and whites could come together in peace and love, and showed people who couldn't get past beliefs how people of different faiths could come together in peace and love.
Sad to say, there were very few Muslims who weren't black there. I may have been the only one for all that goes. And, oddly enough, though they announced the event at my home masjid, they didn't mention that Warith Deen Muhammad was coming. Not that that should make a difference, whether or not he came the event was very much worth attending, but any other major American Muslim figure and they would have let people know. Odd, odd.
Anyway, I'm glad I got assigned to the story. I'm planning on keeping in touch with the Focolare people. I was very impressed with the loving-kindnesss that permeated the room.
And, yes, I did get to meet Warith Deen Muhammad and interview him. Now that's cool!