Syros is an island three hours by ferry from Athens and the ‘capital’, as it were, of the Aegean Islands. Its history is one of refugees and immigrants who brought with them diverse cultures and religions, which still exist today in respectful coexistence. The presence of two churches, one Catholic and one Orthodox, which face each other high up on two mountaintops, is the feature that leaps to the eye as the ferry docks. When we began to think about this project of dialogue between Marxists and Christians, it spontaneously occurred to us to choose this location for the first summer university that transform! Europe and the Pontifical University have sponsored to initiate this journey, with the peculiar name ‘Dialop’ – Transversal Dialogue Project – that is, dialogue as a project.
It is certainly not the first time that this dialogue has taken place, and Italians have continually been in attendance, but one cannot say the same thing of the European left. Doubtless it was Pope Francis to have offered this possibility of opening windows that would have otherwise remained closed.
The international situation, ‘serialised’ wars, the question of immigration, and the forms assumed by contemporary capitalism are issues we deal with everyday, often sharing analyses and responses and looking with concern at the aggravation of human and social relations, and the growing intolerance and xenophobia.
The summer university we held included 35 students from European countries, like Albania, Hungary, Serbia, Spain (Catalonia and the Basque Country), Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, but also from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Burundi , and Madagascar. Their intellectuals, politicians, and university professors from the Marxist and Christian milieus worked out an orientation on the four themes: dialogue, democracy, common goods, and Europe.
It is clear that the differences constituting the basis of the Christian religion and the Marxist vision remain unaltered and represent the foundations of different homes; thus the space we have wanted to construct is precisely that of a dialogue whose points of view can aid in understanding the differences.
They are points of view that we intend neither to endorse nor overcome but whose confrontation can help identify the values on which to build a common vision of what needs to be done.
The purpose of this experience is not just to present a debate, which in itself would certainly be important and an enrichment for the participants, but also to try out possible forms of cooperation around some issues, establishing a capacity for listening to each other.
To this end we have formed working groups that have consolidated around the issues of common goods, taking its cue from the encyclical ‘Laudato si’’, integration and migration, democracy and political participation, the EU and an alternative White Paper, and future scenarios for this project.
The capacity to listen, to build mutual trust, and for interaction was the basis on which it was possible to begin to think through some problem points that I think are essential if we are to proceed. The first point is certainly the different definition of social intervention from the collective and/or individual point of view, which we have encountered. However, it was easy for everyone to identify the aspect of the social context in which every individual is situated, and thus the social sphere is an area in which there has been considerable convergence. The final day on which the working groups presented their conclusions was rather surprising for everyone in the degree to which students were able to find profound unity of viewpoints and a capacity to articulate effective proposals.
I have taken away from this Dialop an experience that has enriched me and which I hope can help disperse the dark clouds that have formed from intolerance and fear.