Imagination or separate reality

Dear Sir,

I hesitated a little, then I said to myself that the dialogue between your Foundation and the Josefa Foundation makes sense, following the two events organised by your Foundation which I attended

At the first event, I spoke briefly about the work of our Foundation. Some aspects may not have really stood out, given that I answered the questions instead of presenting the Josefa Foundation. What has to be taken into account here is the status of the Josefa Foundation, which is a foundation in the public interest; this means that it is not "faith-based". However, the Foundation and its team are committed to the interreligious and ultrareligious dialogue, seeking the full development of the human person through attention to the social, economic, political, cultural and religious aspects. Josefa is a young foundation established in 2011 which strives to fully embrace a renewed contemporary approach: "Migrants, all of us".

I thought a lot about the Josefa vision while visiting your exhibition. The approach you propose in it seeks to put us in a refugee’s "shoes". It aims at the visitor’s imagination and empathy. The Josefa Foundation is, in a way, at variance with this approach, with all due respect. We are convinced that the encounter with others is fully realised when everyone keeps and protects their own place, so that an authentic dialogue may be initiated from the following question: where am I in my "migrant" life? I share the same reality or, by listening to the other one, I want / am able to participate in his reality.

I am convinced that, as a "European", I cannot, for the moment in any case, "understand", for example, this young woman from eastern Congo, introduced in your exhibition as a refugee because of the wars in that region, who was raped, is looking for work and living at her aunt’s, by trying to take over her identity. It is simply not possible. Certainly, it causes a reaction based on imagination and emotion. Having said that, if I examine my own life and the life of my family, while looking at what the frailty of the person from eastern Congo tells me about my own kinds of frailty, I either tend to compare her strengths with my own strengths, or else an exchange (a silence, a look, a word) can appear between two people, between two distinct cultural and societal origins and between two situations that are impossible to compare.

The comment I would like to share with you is that your approach is certainly valid, but I think that philosophy and theology, among other tools, provide us now with more research capabilities that, within Josefa, we try to put into practice. This leads to a dialogue that shows more consideration for each person’s reality, which cannot be shared merely through imagination. I deeply believe that I cannot imagine being raped and, personally, I find that imagining does not show respect for the other person’s pain or her healing process. I can listen to someone who’s been raped and I can stay with her in her grief if I am strong; but I cannot see it from her perspective. For Josefa, this inability does not blot out otherness, otherwise dialogue would definitely be impossible. On the contrary, listening and meeting become possible on the basis of an otherness that is recognised and lived out according to a mutual hospitality. The challenge, which should be met without haste, is to think of meeting others and, depending on one’s freedom, to let oneself be met by others, in a confident, just and real way. This way, we can guard against feelings of pity which can undoubtedly hurt the person who is, in particular, made vulnerable by his or her migration.

It seems to me that, when we spoke at the exhibition, your research, by trying to avoid sentimentalism, was moving in that direction.

That is, in a nutshell, one of the essential issues of the Josefa Foundation.

Therefore, if your Foundation is interested in the vision and mission of the Josefa Foundation, we shall very gladly welcome you in our spaces and, consequently, at the Josefa House in Brussels. The Josefa proposal is an invitation to rethink about our migrations, using a holistic approach (social, economic, cultural and spiritual) and thus using an experimental approach rooted in praxis and research. If we can contribute to your Foundation’s research, we will gladly do so.



Last modified on Monday, 09 October 2017 15:10
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