April 4, 2008

Be Our Guest / Imam Michael Saahir

Remembering Chiara Lubich, a leader-servant who loved all

On March 14, a beautiful soul transitioned from this earthly life onward toward the hereafter.

Chiara (Clara) Lubich, the foundress of the worldwide Catholic-based Focolare Movement, passed away in Rome, Italy, at the age of 88.

Many may question why an Islamic columnist in Indianapolis would write about a Catholic lay leader, an Italian woman who was not a Muslim.

Chiara Lubich, yet 100 percent Catholic, was even more 100 percent a believer in the human excellence of all people whether they were Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu or a believer from any of the world’s great religions.

The Holy Qur’an Chapter 2, verse 62 speaks honorably of non-Muslim believers: “Those who believe [in the Qur’an], and those who follow the Jewish [Scriptures], and the Christians and the Sabians,—any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”

Chiara Lubich was a leader who was not concerned with your religious label and dress. Chiara’s concern was showing, teaching and reminding the world of the “love of neighbor.”

Her mission was born out of distress that was laid upon her during the World War II bombing of her hometown in 1943 and 1944.

While seeking to aid the less fortunate victims of the air raids, Lady Chiara instilled in her life the practice of living, with hands-on actions, the Gospel, particularly the New Testament verse: “Father, may they all be one” (Jn 17:21).

Chiara’s accolades are too numerous to mention, even in a series of articles, for she was a lady loved by many people around the world.

The once small Catholic lay movement of Focolare of the early 1940s today is active in more than 184 countries with a membership of more than 87,000 believers of many faiths, and about 2 million friends and adherents.

The Focolare Movement came to the United States in September of 1961 and prospered in many cities, including Indianapolis.

For many Catholic faithful, Chiara Lubich’s Focolare Movement not only showed them a fulfilling way to love their neighbors, but also rejuvenated their commitment to the Church.

In 1996, Muslim American leader Imam W. Deen Mohammed, while in Rome with Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore to visit Pope John Paul II, also met Chiara Lubich.

The unlikely coming together of these two great religious leaders gave birth to an interfaith marriage of two religious communities.

One of the many highlights of Imam Mohammed and Lady Chiara’s working together was seen in Chiara’s historic visit to speak at the Malcolm Shabazz (Malcolm X) mosque in Harlem, New York, in May of 1997.

Lady Chiara Lubich’s passing is not a loss for the believers of the world. Her committed followers in America and throughout the world are still busy working for universal brotherhood, and we—the Muslims in Indianapolis—are part of that commitment to continue her works.

Imam W. Deen Mohammed released the following message regarding Lady Chiara: “The Blessed Lady Chiara will always be a bright light in our life. We will continue our work of building upon the bond of faith and goodness that formed of our commitment to work together. Love always, [from] Imam W. Deen Mohammed.”

On Christmas day in 1973, Lady Chiara spoke profoundly about her passing. She shared, “If I should have to leave this world today and you were to ask me for one last word that sums up our Ideal, I would say ‘Be a family … ’ ”

(Imam Michael Saahir is with the Nur-Allah Islamic Center in Indianapolis.)†

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