Wings of Unity:
History, Methodology & Outcomes by Prof. Coda & Dr Shomali Italy, 21st April 2018
he following is part of an open session of a four day conference organised by the Focolare Movement, entitled: ‘Together to give hope. Christians and Muslims on march with the charisma of unity.’ This session was attended by numerous leaders and promoters of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The first and last questions were addressed to Dr Shomali and the two middle questions were addressed to Dr Coda.
Introduction by the presenter What Prof Shomali and Prof Coda will talk to us about is the story of ‘Wings of Unity’. Prof Shomali met the Focolare movement many years ago in England. Both sides have led many groups of students to Italy and the city of Qum in Iran for a better understanding of Christianity and Islam. For the last three years in the context of an itinerary of dialogue, a cultural exchange was born between Prof Shomali and Prof Coda and their students at the University of Sophia (Loppiano – Italy), and the name of this initiative is ‘Wings of Unity’. Dr Shomali, what is the Wing of Unity? First I should express my deep gratitude for giving us the blessing of being here together praising God. As you know we have known the Focolare movement for many years and
had many discussions in the UK, Italy and other countries for almost two decades. One of the things which drew my attention from the very beginning was Loppiano and I have a great love and affinity towards it. We kept in touch bringing many groups of students from the Seminaries in Qum to Italy to know more about the Roman Catholic Church and visited many other Christian organisations. We had Catholic/Shi‘a rounds of talks. But I always wanted to know about the spirit of Loppiano. So together with my wife we brought a group of ladies from seminaries in 2013 and after that we invited Roberto Catalano, Cristina, Paul and yourself to Iran. In Qum we talked about the next step and I thought it might be good for our sisters to come for four weeks to observe ‘formation’ in Loppiano. In February 2015 we brought a group of 15 sisters. Thanks be to God, we had a wonderful time. I began to understand the importance of our relationship. Up till then we had known each other for 18 years and I had very carefully observed the movement in different parts of the world.
It was my understanding that we have already established a good level of love, mutual understanding, respect and trust, but it also seemed that we were somehow stuck; we did not seem to be going forward. In one of the meetings in February 2015 in Sofia University, we had an exceptional gathering with students and staff in which we felt a deep sense of unity. In the same meeting, Piero asked me to go back to Sofia to teach. In April 2016 I went back to Sofia to teach a group of MA students. I had four sessions on ‘Islam and Dialogue’. At the end I had a meeting with Piero in his office and that was for us a historical meeting. I told Piero something that a Muslim might never have said to a Christian or vice versa. I said: “We have known each other for a long time and we have trust and love for each other but we do need more guidance from God to move forward. If we sincerely tell God that we have done our best to understand His plan for unity, then God will guide us. However, I believe I cannot say to God, I have done my best if I only read read Muslim literature and only discuss with Muslim scholars and perhaps you feel the same. If we want to understand the plan of God for unity then we must think together. We should ask God to talk to us without conditioning to tell me first and then I would tell the others”.
“One of the things which drew my attention from the very beginning was Loppiano and I have a great love and affinity towards it.” -Dr Shomali