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A map of a "new world" and nostalgia of the sea

Diary of the trip to Kenya, 1st part, Beginning of the Pan African EoC School, January 23, 2011

By Luigino Bruni

110123_Nairobi_01_ridThe first day of the Pan African EoC School at Mariapolis Piero has begun with much joy and with the atmosphere that grand occasions have, characterized by both seriousness and happiness at the same time. There are around 160 people present, including numerous youth, from 12 African countries. To have so many countries represented is truly an important fact in itself. You can feel the enthusiasm, and there are all the premises so that the time of the EoC in Africa may begin. After various non-formal greetings - here in African, the meeting with the other is always solemn - I gave a brief introduction. It was the result of months of preparation for this meeting, even those after I arrived in Nairobi on Saturday, with the help of a few colleagues who live their everyday lives here in Africa.

The situation of the Focolare Movement is not easy here in Africa, just as it isn’t easy for the Church and the whole society. And it is especially difficult in 110123_Nairobi_04_rideconomics, which contains all the contradictions and wounds of these lands, which have been plundered of people and resources for centuries, without mercy, and which continue in this condition today. You can feel that the Africans have a great desire to "get Africa back in their own hands", and even if the Focolare Movement has behaved differently compared to others, with true efforts in inculturation and service to Africa, these wounds are even felt here in this context. 

The whole economy is pierced by secular patronage and paternalism that have created an attitude of "waiting" for help in the Africans, and has killed initiative and creativity. You can understand, then, that for us, who speak of a new world of doing business, where one begins with giving and then receiving, it's not easy. But it is always possible... therefore, we embarked with the awareness of the great complexity of the situation and almost with a sense of powerlessness.

Having to introduce the whole school, giving a message above all to give hope, what came to my mind was the story of Christopher Columbus as a metaphor. Different than many who would have liked to have crossed the ocean, Columbus was able to do so because he found a map of the ocean (designed by Toscanelli who never left Italy) which gave him strength and hope to venture out into the open sea.

110123_Nairobi_02_ridThe charism is like a map that helps us face the unknown, with the serious hope of being able to find a "new world" (perhaps by looking for the Indies). But Columbus wrote his real map when he returned home. In the same way, only the Africans can bring about the African Economy of Communion. Right now, what is needed is to start with the EoC that has arisen from a charism. Then, there will be need of seamen, ships and captains, but most of all, they will need to have "nostalgia of the sea" (of a united world!), the desire to suffer, to search for a new world. If this nostalgia is missing, the boat will never set sail. Therefore: a "map" and "nostalgia of the sea".

The morning followed with the wonderful experiences of John Mundell and Teresa Ganzon (and families), extraordinary gifts for the EoC. Africa, United States, Asia, Europe: everyone there for the same great goal.

Now, the day continues with workshops in the afternoon, led by Giampietro and Elisa Parolin, Francesco Tortorella and Teresa Ganzon, all of which promise to be important moments of exchange. We'll keep you updated, and in the meanwhile, let's all keep up our nostalgia of the sea (the united world), believing in the map (even without having seen the ocean), in Africa and elsewhere!

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