“Together for Europe”: Reconciliation and Dialogue

The experience of Maria Inês Tolentino da Silva, a student from Portugal


A valuable point that characterizes living at the IUS is the possibility for students to know and to partake of, during the months dedicated to their studies, a series of initiatives, outside of one’s personal academic program, but nevertheless connected to the cultural vision of Sophia, run by entities and social –cultural organisms which operate within the same meaningful plane.


Maria Inês Tolentino da Silva, from Portugal, found herself in front of this opportunity before concluding her courses in economy these past weeks; and synthesizes thus her course of study: 


(in the centre Maria Inês da Silva, with Alberto Lo Presti and Elena Granata, IUS teachers) 


“Originally from Lisbon, with a Portuguese mother and Indian father, I arrived in Tuscany two years ago, desiring to continue to nurture myself with what in my formation had sprung within me a need to open up towards the other.  In Portugal I had left my studies in economy and had proceeded with a program in Educational Sciences, until turning once again to my initial choice by enrolling in the IUS’s Specialization in Economy and Management.  I thus found again the foundations on which to build.  Today, if I were to indicate a topic that marks my experience, it is one of ‘reconciliation’.”


How did you find this idea during your stay at Sophia?


“Already during the first year, I had been invited to an important ecumenical initiative the IUS participated in: ‘Together for Europe', a journey shared with other Christian movements, Catholic, Evangelical, Reformed, Anglican and Orthodox, which, while maintaining their own autonomy, act together by carrying into the fabric of the European continent the contribution of their charism.  In May of 2012, in fact, I was there too, first at Lovanio, with the youth, and then at  Bruxelles at the Square Meeting Center: a stage of this free convergence of people and Christian Movements, after the preceding great international events of Stockholm in 2004 and in 2007.

And then this year, only a few weeks ago, from Nov. 7-9, I was able to participate also at the recent annual appointment in Paris,  framed by historical Montmartre, in which 125 responsible of 46 movements and communities, of different churches of 13 European countries – from Russia to Portugal, from Denmark to Slovenia – have worked on a very demanding agenda: how to sympathize concretely with the poor and the emarginated of our cities.”


What was your impression on the occasion of this event of “Together for Europe”?


"Extraordinary. The atmosphere of hope and concreteness one breathed among those people is unforgettable, seeing how committed they were to help build the ‘culture of communion’ finding possible answers to some topics currently crucial, in the context of the serious financial and economical crisis.  For me, it was an experience of deep interior and exterior reconciliation, which helped me to understand better the strength of dialogue and also some personal limits I had whenever I tried to open up, by bringing light on the great gift of diversity, which in itself, promotes richness and encounter if well codified, but it can also be a carrier of strife, when not well understood.

All of this brought me to a turning point in my behaviour towards others, mainly toward those with whom a relationship is hardest to manifest.  Moreover, meeting Christians of other denominations was an occasion to understand and give value to the richness of other Christian lives and it gave me a deeper awareness of my own.”


Could it be seen as an experience defined within the spiritual realm?


"I don’t think so. The dimension of reconciliation continues to accompany me: to give you an example, even on the occasion of a job internship of two months for an Italian firm, which I was able to do in concluding my biennial at the IUS.  I felt that all I had learned in the two preceding years was being concretely applied in my work within the company. The load I had acquired at the IUS had opened up many opportunities: my work was appreciated because it carried this depth and truth in relating to the others, since I tried to put the other in the first place as dialogue and listening were my most important working tools. Now I am back at the IUS and the thesis phase has begun.  It is another step in which to go discover many other reconciliations!” 


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