Meditation by Brother Alois

Being able to receive the difference of the other

Thursday 28 July 2022

It is a great joy for us brothers to see you again at Taizé in such large numbers, from Europe, and even from further afield, from the United States, Korea and elsewhere. A warm welcome to you all!

I would especially like to greet the young volunteers who are spending a longer period here. They come from various European countries, and also from several countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Thank you to all these young volunteers whose presence and their commitment allows us to welcome you here for a week.

As you know, this year we have chosen to deepen the theme of unity, in its various dimensions: the unity of the human family and with all creation, the unity of the Church, and also the unity of each one of us with ourselves. To reflect on this, you will find some proposals in the text for this year, “Becoming creators of unity”.

The first two parts of this text are about meeting and dialoguing with those who come from other backgrounds, or who have different ideas or life options from our own. What seems essential to me, to put it simply, is that dialogue must not be broken by our refusal to listen to another way of thinking.

Is this easy? Certainly not. Recently, a young person told me how difficult it was to have someone in his small sharing group here whose thoughts on many subjects he did not share at all. But that’s just what the challenge is: are we able to maintain a dialogue even when we disagree on sometimes essential issues?

It is precisely when there is disagreement that dialogue is even more important. Of course, it is not a question of relativising differences or adopting ways of speaking that are in contradiction with our deepest convictions. I must retain the freedom to disagree with others.

But let’s remember the attitude of Jesus who was able to meet people from very different backgrounds. One day he said to his disciples these words which they must have found difficult to put into practice: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you deserve? And if you greet only those who are close to you, what is so extraordinary about what you are doing?” (Matthew 5:46-48)

Recently, we had the opportunity to live a beautiful experience of dialogue thanks to the fifth “meeting of friendship between young Christians and Muslims”, with about a hundred young people and speakers from both religions. I was deeply touched by the trust of these young Muslims who chose to spend these few days in Taizé.

Of course, their trust made the dialogue much easier, but we also saw the deep differences between us. And for both sides, it is painful that the treasure of our faith cannot be fully received and shared by the other. And yet, in the course of this meeting, we discovered again that true friendship is possible!

This is what the French philosopher Jacques Maritain expressed with these words quoted in our proposals for this year: “The truest and most intimate friendship can exist between people who think differently about essential matters. This naturally involves an element of pain, but it makes our friend still more dear to us.”

For those of us who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it seems to me that it is precisely in the name of our faith that we can enter into dialogue. Some fear that dialogue will make us lose our identity, but let us not be afraid! If we have a fulfilled inner life, we will be able to receive the difference of the other, his or her otherness, in kindness and trust.

In this period when our world is often shaken by violence, and when war continues to shake the continent of Europe in Ukraine, it is urgent to do everything possible to say that religions do not want violence but seek to be factors of peace, friendship and fraternity between all human beings.

I hope that these days in Taizé will allow each of us to experience such a broadening of the heart. We will then be able to welcome each other, to let ourselves be welcomed by the other – the person opposite me, the stranger, the one who is different from me.

It is in this spirit that we will continue our “pilgrimage of trust on earth”, through the meetings here in Taizé. And at the end of the year we will meet again in Germany, in Rostock, that beautiful city on the Baltic Sea, for the European meeting.

And now a child is going to say the names of all the countries on the hill this week - countries that represent a large number of peoples, and the children are going to distribute the flowers.

There are flowers for those from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.

For those from Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Jersey and Cyprus.

For those from Spain, Andorra, Portugal, Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Ukraine.

For those from Korea, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and India.

For those from the United States, Canada and Kiribati Islands.

For those from Egypt, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

There are also flowers for Archbishop Joan Enric Vives of Seu d’Urgell in Andorra, Archbishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Algiers and Bishop Devadhar of the Methodist Church in the USA.

Last updated: 2 August 2022