“Let’s Colour Our City”: Teens at work to change the world

“One of my classmates did not support any of my ideas for our college festival last year and at times she even lied to the professors in charge saying that I didn’t provide any ideas at all! This year she’s heading the Discipline Committee as well as the Nature Club in college and there have been days when I’ve had to work with her or help her out. Initially, I felt a little hesitant considering her behaviour towards me last year, but then I remembered my commitment to the project of the Teens4Unity: “Let’s Colour our City”, so I chose to work with her all the same. Now she has started to share her food with me in class during our break, and although it is still taking me some time to forgive her completely I am hoping that things will continue to get better in the course of time.”
— TANIA F, Mumbai

These and many similar life stories are shared by teens worldwide who form part of the International Focolare Movement, which began in Italy during World War II and is now present in 182 countries, and more than 2 million people of all ages share its life and work to build a world that is more united.

Who would not like to see one’s own city, instead of “grey” because of solitude and indifference, coloured by the love that brings people closer and builds fraternity?

The Golden Rule

There is a rule that can help, which is practised by thousands of the Teens4unity all over the world, who are taking ahead a worldwide project called “Let’s colour our City”. Their rule is known worldwide and is called the “GOLDEN RULE”. The Teenager Today brings you a series of articles that will explain to you this project better and see if we could extend this to all our cities and start “colouring them” with our actions based on this rule. It could be the first step to change our world.

Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), who was born in Trent, Italy, was the first one to have the idea of a project for a united world and often spoke of the Golden Rule. Once she said: “Those who know a little about the different religions that we practise say that there is a formula present in almost all the faiths of the world. It’s called the GOLDEN RULE. It says: “DO NOT DO TO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD NOT LIKE THEM DO TO YOU”. In practice it asks for respect for others. And to have respect, we must love”.

Chiara Lubich on her visit to India

Chiara’s numerous travels all over the globe brought her also to India and one of her first trips in 2001 was to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu where she was invited to receive the “Defender of Peace Award” conferred on her by a Gandhian organization called Shanti Ashram. Dr Vinu Aram, the current director of the ashram had this to say about her long friendship with Chiara Lubich: “Chiara said once that love is written in the heart of every human being. I thank God for the gift of her vision, the beauty of her life experience and the love with which she touched the hearts. For her the unprecedented challenge of building unity amidst diversity was more than a call, it was indeed a possibility. I cherish the many personal interactions I had with her. Her simplicity, her affectionate attention to details, her love for human unity, her celebration of aesthetics, the personal word she had for my work… for my dreams!”

Birth of the “Focolare”

Chiara was 19-years-old when the Second World War broke out between Germany and its allies and Great Britain, bringing destruction, hatred and violence in many countries. The war was raging even in the city of Trent, northern Italy, where she lived and was eager to follow her dream of furthering her studies in philosophy, and where she worked as a primary school teacher to support her family. In all that devastation, together with a group of friends Chiara understood one big lesson: everything in this world passes, all our ideals and possessions can be taken away leaving us empty handed, except for one ideal, which no bomb can destroy. That ideal is God, who is Love, that love which is in the heart of all of us.

Chiara and her friends used to run to the air raid shelters as many as ten times a day, and they could take nothing with them, except for a pocket sized Gospel, in which they rediscovered that every word, every episode is rooted in the commandment to love one another.

Teens listening to Chiara Lubich

They decided to build their lives on this commandment and their first reaction was to reach out to help and serve the poor people of Trent. Soon many others connected to this small group of young girls, attracted by their enthusiasm to love all around them, their hearts aflame with their Ideal of the love of God.

Those around them started to call them people of the “focolare”, an Italian word which means hearth or family fireside, and thus the name given to the movement that was being born.

Since those beginnings in the 1940’s this movement spread like wildfire bringing people together, turning diversity into mutual enrichment. It contributes to discovering the principles of truth and love present in all cultures and religious beliefs, based on the spirit of unity, which changes the way people relate in society. Economics, politics, art, culture, sports, health, education… the Focolare movement proposes opening of new roads in all aspects of life and social living.