Young Spaniards involved in the movement of the indignados in Madrid wrote to me: “Anything can happen if the situation does not get better. Many people are unemployed; they are losing their homes and their basic human rights….” (note 6)
A year after the occupation of the Puerta del Sol, the last action in which I participated was to demonstrate in a funny way, using humor. When the tensions seemed to rise between protesters and police, our group tried to make people laugh, on both sides if possible, to avoid a violent conflict between the two parties. So we are looking for new ways to demonstrate, peaceful and funny ones, that keep violence from increasing around us. In the face of some police actions, it certainly is not always easy to keep inner peace, but little by little, working, laughing and sharing about this with friends of mine, I have started to feel a deep and growing peace that comes from deep within me and spreads out around me. Back in my daily life, I feel that my life does not only belong to me but that I am united with others.
The impetus towards a new solidarity is nourished by deeply held convictions: the need for sharing is one of them. This is an imperative that can bring together believers of different religions as well as believers and non-believers.
During the preparation of the European meeting in Berlin, I lived in a family in Neukölln, a district of Berlin where many immigrants live. At first I was pretty worried, since I had heard so many negative things about that neighborhood.
Then, during my stay, I discovered that these immigrants, who are often seen as the source of many problems, were those who were most interested in the preparation of the meeting. They were also those who greeted me in the friendliest way. I often spoke with some of them about the meeting; I invited them to take part in it if they wished. They appreciated and respected the idea that this meeting would bring together thousands of young people from across Europe to pray and live together for a few days in trust, reconciliation and peace. Often, they themselves were surprised that a German would invite them to a Christian event—they were not expecting this.
In this same neighborhood, a Muslim association proposed to make their meeting-hall available to house young participants in the event if we could not find enough room. For me it was a real sign of reconciliation, of a new solidarity among people. If we really want to continue this journey towards a new solidarity, we should never stop talking with immigrants with respect. And we should do all we can to help them become more a part of society, so that they can find their place.
To initiate solidarity, we need to go towards others, sometimes with empty hands, listening, trying to understand the man or woman who does not think like us... and already a deadlocked situation can be transformed.
During a trip to Latin America as a Taizé volunteer, I visited a district of a big city where very poor families live. They live in very small and rudimentary houses, in which eight people sometimes share a single small room. They survive by making bricks: every day, they produce bricks, fire them, then sell them to companies. That is their only means of earning a living...or rather of surviving. The children walk without shoes, for lack of money. To me, they were very hospitable. I visited some of these families with a volunteer working in the neighborhood who knows each of them. During the entire afternoon we played with the children, who were cheerful and happy—a sign of hope in a difficult situation.