The gaze on the other

Publish date 26-05-2022

by Matteo Spicuglia

La riflessione di padre Claudio Monge, domenicano a Istanbul, terra di frontiera

True relationships arise from the ability to listen, from the willingness to meet despite differences and contradictions. Very often in borderlands. A yardstick that applies to individuals, but also to states. Father Claudio Monge is an expert in this art. Dominican, for many years in Istanbul, has focused on a very particular gaze. Today he understood that "borders are mobile" and that "the humility of not sitting down, of feeling like pilgrims and on a journey" is really needed: a path towards the essential.

Yet, the other - whether they are people, countries or cultures - scares us ...

Yes, because the other is not a simple mirror in which to reflect myself, but sends me back an unprecedented image of myself. But it is the challenge that we must accept. We think of the metaphor, but also of the concreteness of a frontier: at the same time it is a place of passage, but also a limit, something that borders you. On the one hand, it can be scary and invite you to withdraw; on the other hand, it may be the constant stimulus to rethink who you are. Good identities are those truly capable of questioning, growing, reflecting. This was already said in an admirable way by a philosopher of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. He explained that the border of an island can really be the limited space of a very small geographic territory, but if you look at it from the other side of the horizon you see an ocean that opens up sometimes disturbing horizons, but also paths of hope to row. with courage. I also think of the teaching of Msgr. Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, killed during the civil war in Algeria. He loved to repeat that as witnesses of the Gospel we are called to inhabit the fault lines of humanity, of faulty places, which are extremely uncomfortable places because the fault as such is a precipice and you have the impression that you no longer have feet steady neither on one side nor on the other. I believe that we Christians can have a decisive role in a divided and polarized world, to the extent that we accept to build bridges. Living in certain divisions means giving hope and creating opportunities.

How is it done in practice?

We have often and willingly made faith an ideology, a sort of identity armor, but it is not the way. Faith is the attempt to look at the world as God would look at it, that is, with love, with mercy, with passion. But not only. This gaze that is in time also goes beyond time. To us, some historical changes seem epochal to us, points of no return. God has another perspective. Our thousand years are a night watch, as the psalmist says. God's gaze sees long, it does not get lost where instead we tend to get lost or to pass from catastrophe to catastrophe, from desperation to despair. God always knows how to revive and encourage us every time. I think we should learn a lot from him.

Opening up to encounter and diversity should be the first task of politics and also of each of us ...

Of course, we are the result of an encounter of diversity and we must also accept the complexity in which we are immersed. We have always been called to do this, to open ourselves to this otherness. A small child discovers his mother's face first than his own face. By learning to progressively touch his mother's nose and features, he will find similar things about himself, but he can only do so after discovering the diversity of those who gave him into the world. True, in today's society all processes are accelerated and it is not easy. I am thinking of humanity pressing on our borders and the withdrawal of us Westerners. Once again I believe that it is a question of governing these processes, with the method of gaze we were saying. We are called today to make diversity a great opportunity, conforming our way of seeing to the vast horizons of God.

And in the one-to-one relationship, how can you grow? The pandemic has also instilled fear and mistrust ...

It's true. These two years have complicated things a lot, but there is a fixed point. The other in front of me always remains a gift that cannot be claimed or predetermined. It is a gift that I have to unpack every time, aware that I myself must be a gift for the other. Within these dynamics it is difficult to face face to face and come out unscathed and unharmed. Clearly to this is added the infinite and continuous capacity for forgiveness, to ask for forgiveness and to ask for forgiveness. This too is a testimony that we can give as Christians: the ability to restore a relationship a thousand and a thousand times, starting from recognizing oneself as sinners and weak. Only the embrace of the other rebuilds communion.

Matteo Spicuglia

NP Febbraio 2022


MONS. PIERRE CLAVERIE, killed during the civil war in Algeria

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