Spirituality towards Radical Love for Radical Change a journey towards a new holistic spirituality

by: Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME

I – Introduction

 The Silsilah School of Holistic Care answers the urgent challenge to revisit the natural and spiritual needs and aspirations of each person, especially now in the present situation of different forms of violence. This is the time to understand more the root cause of violence present in society in order to appreciate the dignity and sanctity of life.

 We started this School of Holistic Care asking ourselves: “Who am I?” and discovering the elements of our life and the importance of choosing the proper food and the proper style of life. Starting from this basic points and guidelines, each one has been invited to know more the self, the elements of life and the need to return to a simple style of life. We have touched directly the reality of the dependencies, especially of drugs, that are destroying our society and many families and we have learned some methods to overcome dependence on drugs.

 Now this presentation is an answer to the different forms of dependence and ideologies that bring people far from the centrality of God and we do it in the context of holistic care and the spirituality of life-in- dialogue that Silsilah promotes. We will give a special attention to dialogue as an expression of love. Thus, the need to discover and experience “Radical Love for Radical Change”.

 What is important is to understand that the spirituality of life-in- dialogue that Silsilah promotes is not only a new vision to learn, but a new style of life that can change the life of those who internalize and experience it. Thus, we approach this topic as a new challenge to understand life and death as part of the same spiritual journey that God has decided for us. But how many understand this spiritual journey? For this reason we try to present here gradually this topic choosing only some basic points considering that the topic is so vast and challenging. Hopefully this will be an occasion for us to enter more in this extraordinary spiritual journey of life with humility and hope.

 Guided by this introduction we divide this presentation in four parts:



 We start to present spirituality in general and we reaffirm here that God has created each one of us with a body and soul. Thus, spirituality is part of the human experience and aspiration. This “built up” spirituality is the internal voice of God.

 We know also how the religion we follow can help us to give a deeper meaning to the spirituality planted in the heart of each person. Normally, a person is guided by the spirituality channel of the religion that he/she believes and if one does not affiliate to any religion he/she has to listen first to the voice of “conscience” that is the voice of spirituality planted in each person, and in the process , he/she can discover more about the creator of the universe as a loving God.

 We try here to understand first the relation between spirituality and psychology that today is in a stage of great transformation where the spirituality is emerging as a proper aspiration of those who search for meaning in life.

 Behind the quest for spirituality lies a growing need for passion and meaning in our lives. I choose among the many authors Dr. David Elkins who presents the increasing need for spirituality in the world today.

 (David N. Elkins Ph.D., published on September 1, 1999 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016. He is a licensed psychologist and professor of psychology in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University. He is the president of the Humanistic Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association and author of Beyond Religion: A Personal Program for Building a Spiritual Life Outside the Walls of Traditional Religion – Quest Books, 1998).

 In one of his studies and reflections he shared some of his observations that guide us to a better understanding of spirituality in general to allow us to add more specific points of our theme.

 He starts his reflection and sharing on spirituality saying: “During the first therapy session 20 years ago a psychologist listened to me as no one had ever listened before. Near the end of the session, he said gently, you are spiritually hungry. I began to cry. Me, a grown 31-year- old man. Because somewhere, deep inside, I knew he was right.”

 He continued saying: “For the next two years. I was taught how to care for and feed my soul. The psychologist gave me the skills I needed to build a life of passion and depth. Today, as a clinical psychologist and university professor, I share this wisdom with clients and students because I believe that spirituality is essential to human happiness and mental health.” Spirituality is the fastest growing– the only one growing– sector of the publishing industry. Dr. Elkins says also that this interest is not only a return to traditional religion and he adds: “The trend toward alternative forms of spirituality figures prominently on the spiritual landscape of America. More and more Americans but also people of other parts of the world, are finding in spirituality what they’re looking for in therapy– healing techniques and new inspiration. The authors focus their research more on a specific area, but we know that this phenomenon is similar also in other parts of the world.”

 As spirituality spreads, psychology cant decide to love it or leave it alone. Carl Jung went so far as to say that spirituality was such an essential ingredient in psychological health that he could heal only those middle-aged people who embraced a spiritual or religious perspective toward life.

 So like their forefathers, psychologists today are not divided on their attitude toward religion. But they confirm that it plays some sort of role in their patients; mental health.

 The word spirituality comes from the Latin root spiritus, which means breath– referring to the breath of life. It involves opening our hearts and cultivating our capacity to experience awe, reverence and gratitude. It is the ability to see the sacred in the ordinary, to know the passion of existence and to give ourselves over to that which is greater than ourselves. Its aim: to bring about compassion. Its effect: good physical and mental health.

 Supporting health benefits of spirituality is a growing body of research. The Harvard Medical School of Continuing Education presents a course, "Spirituality and Healing in Medicine," that brings together religious scholars and medical leaders from around the world to discuss the role of spirituality in the treatment of illness and pain.

 According to the professors who teach the course, approximately 60 medical schools now offer related classes– five years ago there were only three. And in 1996, a survey of 269 family physicians found that 99% believed prayer, meditation or other spiritual and religious practice can be helpful in medical treatment; more than half said they currently incorporate relaxation or meditation techniques into treatment of patients.

 Herbert Benson has demonstrated in his research that while chronic stress is harmful to the body, daily meditation (a form of spirituality) can reduce stress and promote relaxation and overall well-being. Today’s research may be cutting edge, but the idea that spirituality heals is nothing new.

 For thousands of years, long before the advent of modern medicine, people looked to spirituality for cures. Early animistic cultures believed spirits controlled everything, including sickness and health. In this system, the shaman– a person attuned to the spiritual world– was the archetypal healer. When members of a tribe fell ill, the shaman used spiritual interventions to bring the patient back into harmony with the sacred world, to bring back their health. Cultures around the world today still depend on shamans for most of their health care.

 The best explanation for the effectiveness of spiritual interventions, whether performed by ancient shamans or modem day therapists, is that they draw upon the healing power of our life force our body is natural inclination to survive. Research in body/mind medicine is showing that we can either support or obstruct the life force by our beliefs, emotions and behavior. Spiritual interventions heal– sometimes when traditional psychotherapy fails– because they untie the mental and emotional knots that prevent the life force from doing its work.

 Among the many suggestions, Dr. Elkins proposes four ways to begin a spiritual journey. These ways are:



 These few points taken from Dr. Elkins tell us how spirituality is becoming relevant in the modern society. It seems a contradiction if we consider that we are living in a materialist society. We take the above points related to spirituality in the world today to reaffirm the spirituality of Silsilah and the challenge that Silsilah presents to enter in a dialogue that can become real and transform life. It can challenge us to transform radicalism with violence into radicalism with love to achieve real changes on personal and social level.



 We have already mentioned above the importance of spirituality. Guided by this understanding today there is an increasing need to approach a person considering all the elements of life and the history of each person to enter in the deeper part of the self of each person. Psychology and similar fields of researches and approaches can help, but we can also understand that to help ourselves and others we cannot ignore other factors. Among the emerging fields related to spirituality we identify here two of them: Psycho Spirituality and Holistic Spirituality. These two approaches can be unified in a new form of spirituality that I call here: Psycho-Holistic Spirituality”.

A. Psycho Spirituality
 Psycho Spirituality or Spiritual Psychology is a blend of spirituality and science. It uses elements of both traditional psychology and spirituality in order to help individuals feel better and more content with their lives.

 Professionals in the field of spiritual psychology understand that the body, mind, and the spirit all work together; therefore, they must be studied together. Each of these elements must be healthy and in shape to achieve optimal harmony. Spiritual psychology focuses first on repairing fractured souls or replacing missing pieces of the soul and move towards a more harmonious relation between body, mind and spirit.

B. Holistic Spirituality
 In recent times we hear more about the concept of “Holistic” and “Holistic Health Care”. This challenges us in this presentation on spirituality to explore more about the “Holistic Spirituality”. A lot can be said on this field, but considering the limit of our presentation here we only give a common definition and explain what normally is understood for “Holistic Spirituality”.

 Definition: Holistic spirituality is the natural human connection with the wonder and energy of nature, cosmos and all existence, and the instinct to explore and understand its meaning.”

 Thus, Holistic spirituality means our personal search for that inner knowing of spirit and all its faculties. Spirituality can be found within as well as without religion.  It does depend upon the seeker.  We are all seekers of truth. From this understanding of “holistic spirituality” we move to add more elements in the course of this presentation to introduce the Silsilah way of spirituality of life-in- dialogue where the faith element is important in variety of religions. Thus, we can consider this way a “New Holistic Spirituality”.

 It combines the basic spirituality enriched by faith and the Psycho-holistic spirituality. This is the holistic care that we promote and we call here “New Holistic Spirituality”.

C. New Holistic Spirituality
 We often hear people saying that they do not believe. Normally they are identified as “non- believers”. This phenomenon is true in the world especially now where secularism and materialism seems putting apart spirituality. The challenge for us is how we can propose a spirituality enriched by the presence of faith and at the same time respect the variety of religions as a mysterious plan of God that helps to purify our intention and deepen our spirituality. Silsilah proposes the “Culture of Dialogue” as Path to Peace through a process of personal and social transformation in the personal and social journey of a spirituality guided by the four pillars of dialogue that are: Dialogue with God, Dialogue with the Self, Dialogue with Others and Dialogue with Creation. These four pillars help to rediscover, appreciate and experience spirituality in general, Psycho Spirituality and Holistic Spirituality that we call here “New Holistic Spirituality.”

 Before moving forward, a question can be raised: “Can we say that people who do not believe in a specific faith do not have spirituality?” The answer is that these people still have an “anonymous” or “hidden” spirituality, but they do not recognize it as spirituality. Even if one does not recognize the internal dynamic of our “conscience” we have to believe that we are created with a body and a soul and the result and manifestation of this “body-soul” present in us is what we call “ spirituality” .

 Martin Buber, a famous Jewish philosopher of recent times, focused his theory on the link between the “I and Thou” relation (The self and God). He reaffirms the dynamic of life and the relation between us and God and the dynamic of man-God relation. It is like two parts of the same heart that need to meet to reach the unity and happiness in this life and the life to come. This is not only a philosophical theory, but we can find also in the Christian and Islamic faith points of reference to reaffirm this theory. This created relation has a great impact in the life of each person. There is in each person an internal aspiration and search for happiness. In our life this aspiration is developed and, if purified and accepted, guides each person towards the harmony and unity of the “I and the Thou” (The self and God). This is the journey toward the eternal unity with God and
the eternal happiness. This point is explained in different ways by religious and old philosophies, among these the theory of the “yin and yan” relation that influence people’s behaviors and the “life-force” of each person and the universe. We focus here only on Christianity and Islam. In a simple way we can explain this aspiration with the famous quotation of St. Augustine that says: “My heart is restless until it rests in you, O God!”

 Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a prominent twentieth century philosopher. He is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou” and “I-It” modes of existence.

 What is the meaning of I and Thou?

 In Buber's view, all of our relationships bring us ultimately into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou. Buber explains that humans are defined by two word pairs: I-It and I-Thou. The It of I-It refers to the world of experience and sensation. He presents a philosophy of personal dialogue, in that it describes how personal dialogue can define the nature of reality. Buber’s major theme is that human existence may be defined by the way in which we engage in dialogue with each other, with the world, and with God.

 According to Buber, human beings may adopt two attitudes toward the world: I-Thou or I-It. I-Thou is a relation of subject-to- subject, while I-It is a relation of subject-to- object. In the I-Thou relationship, human beings are aware of each other as having a unity of being. In the I-Thou relationship, human beings do not perceive each other as consisting of specific, isolated qualities, but engage in a dialogue involving each other’s whole being. In the I-It relationship, on the other hand, human beings perceive each other as consisting of specific, isolated qualities, and view themselves as part of a world which consists of things. I-Thou is a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity, while I-It is a relationship of separateness and detachment.

 Buber says that the I-Thou relation is a direct interpersonal relation which is not mediated by any intervening system of ideas. No objects of thought intervene between I and Thou. 1 I-Thou is a direct relation of subject-to-subject, which is not mediated by any other relation.

 Thus, I-Thou is not a means to some object or goal, but is an ultimate relation involving the whole being of each subject. Love, as a relation between I and Thou, is a subject-to- subject relation. Buber claims that love is not a relation of subject-to- object. In the I-Thou relation, subjects do not perceive each other as objects, but perceive each other’s unity of being. Love is an I-Thou relation in which subjects share this unity of being. Love is also a relation in which I and Thou share a sense of caring, respect, commitment, and responsibility. According to Buber, God is the eternal Thou. God is the Thou who sustains the I-Thou relation eternally. In the I-Thou relation between the individual and God, there is a unity of being in which the individual can always find God. In the I-
Thou relation, there is no barrier of other relations which separate the individual from God, and thus the individual can speak directly to God.

Buber contends that the I-Thou relation between the individual and God is a universal relation which is the foundation for all other relations. If the individual has a real I-Thou relation with God, then the individual must have a real I-Thou relation with the world. If the individual has a real I-Thou relation with God, then the individual’s actions in the world must be guided by that I-Thou relation.
( Martin Buber, I and Thou, translated by Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), p. 26). The struggle of each human being explained by different religions in different ways brings humanity to a reality that is dynamic and it is at the base of the human search for happiness. Some reach the stage of unity with God that governs the different aspects of life and help to find happiness as a form of peace even in the stage of suffering, others reach the stage of desperation and dependencies as we introduce in the third part of this presentation. We search for the source of happiness, even if we do not know why and, in the process, we can find the “right way” that is the way of goodness or the “wrong way” that brings moral sickness and spiritual death.
In the mysterious plan of God religions emerge in the world as answers to the human search of the source of life that we identify as God. Normally a religion offers to people a specific faith that answers to the meaning of life, of suffering, of death and life after death. When we are convinced of a specific “way” proposed by a specific religion we have to be able to live “the way” that we embrace. We usually call this way “our faith”. In the process we discover that others follow other ways. In the past, and even now, this discovering was, and still is, taken with a confrontational spirit, but a person who follows a spiritual journey has to put apart all these negative feelings often
built up by society for vested interest and be faithful to the embraced spiritual journey of life. In this process the need of a deeper dialogue guides us to understand that “Dialogue starts from God and brings people back to God”, as Silsilah proposes presenting the spirituality of life-in- dialogue.
The faith we believe nurtures our spirituality and the spirituality nurtures our faith. For the Christians the spirituality is nurtured by the message of the Holy Bible and for the Muslims through the message of the Holy Qur’an. The eternal “word of God” for the Christian is Jesus Christ and for the Muslims the Holy Qur’an. This determines the great difference between Christianity and Islam and at the same time opens the door to a deeper dialogue and respect of differences, discovering also converging points of spirituality. One can ask: “If there is one God why so many religions?” We enter here in the mystery of God that we cannot understand fully. In the Harmony Prayer we say :“ O Lord, sustain my vision of Peace following your inspiration, You have many ways of revealing your presence and love for humanity, but your style is constant, you are in dialogue with all, You care for all”.

 Indeed the specific faith we profess is important for us and in dialogue we are called to deepen our faith. Meanwhile, we respect the faith of others accepting the mysterious plan of God in the plurality of religions.’

 We try to explain this point with an example. In the seventies, the first few years of my mission in Siocon,Zamboanga del Norte, I decided to live in a Muslim community and share my life with the people. Some Muslims used to say to me: “ Father you are so good, the only thing that you need is to become Muslim ”. Well, I took that comment as a form of appreciation of my goodness and I used to smile and sometimes answered in this way: “I try to be good because I believe in Jesus’ message of love for all”. The same can happen when we see a good Muslim and we think that he/she is like a good Christian. For sure they give an answer similar to my answer based on Islamic Faith. Yes, because goodness is part of the teaching of Christianity, Islam and the faith of other religions. At the same time we find the strength in the basic and essential aspects of our faith. Going back to the experience presented above, I believe that my kindness was inspired by the teaching of Jesus, but also a fruit of the grace of God.

 There are those who still believe that if they follow a specific faith they have to affirm the superiority of their faith. No need. We are called only to share the joy of our faith with humility. Most of the time we are called to witness the faith also in silence and this is often the most effective way. It is the way to give space to the spirituality that unify. Christians have to remain faithful to their faith based on the revelation of God, the incarnation of the Emmanuel ( God among us) and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This faith for the Christians has to remain even if other religions say different thoughts and also put down the Christian religion . This is true also for Islam which is presented as the fulfillment of the prophecy. In this process we continue to reaffirm our faith and experience the unifying element of our spirituality in the diversity of faith. This element is LOVE in the variety of its forms and experiences.



 In this part we try to explore more the connection between “the New HOLISTIC SPIRITUALITY” and the “RADICAL LOVE FOR RADICAL CHANGE”.

 We often find those who present the concept of “Radical change for radical love”, but I prefer to present this part as a challenge coming from a radical love inspired by the love of God to move towards “radical change”.

Thus, this is a change where we experience in a certain stage of our life that God is love and helps us to rediscover and experience “radical love” in order to have “radical changes.”

 Now we try to emphasize that the most important part of life is love, “a love that comes from God and brings back to God”. There is a strong connection between love, happiness and mercy in God. Love brings us to the deeper contemplation of the Trinity and Oneness of God in Christianity and to the Tawhid of God/Allah in islam. We are challenged to rediscover the deeper meaning of LOVE to understand the deeper meaning of LIFE with all its aspects, including suffering. To help people one has to act with love, listening with the heart to be able to forgive, encourage and guide others. The spiritual and physical cure happens first of all with the grace of God that is always unpredictable for us, but it is part of the dynamic of love of God for each person, but also we can observe that it starts when one starts to believe that there is still hope, a new beginning in life and that God loves each person unconditionally.

 Before moving forward in this presentation we pose for a moment to internalize the word “Radical” that often is used related to “radicalism” with violence. Indeed, in any radical action there is a form of “ struggle”; we present here this internal struggle motivated by faith, or, if one has no faith, motivated by values of life that are also an expression of spirituality. Thus, we are challenged in this presentation to use the word “radical” for something positive that finds the root in LOVE.

 Guided by desire to understand better the spiritual journey we can rediscover the life and saints, mystics and Sufis both in Christianity and Islam, as well as in many other religions. Thus, this spirituality inspired by God’s love can really bring miracles on personal and social level. There are many stories of radical love that has transformed people, even criminals into saints.

 As a Christian I am always touched by the expression of St. Paul that says: “Love and do what you like”. It is not easy to understand it. At the beginning it appears that it gives us the freedom to do what we wish, but, if we reflect properly, it gives the freedom to act with a pure love that comes from God. It purifies our intentions and desires and guides us to the real love that helps us to act with purity of love and to choose only one direction that guides us to the source of love that is God. This unity with God transforms us and gives a new dimension of life in this world and prepares us for the life to come.

 Something similar we can find in Islam. Among the different messages that I like in the Holy Qur’an is that God is closer to us like the “jugular vein of our body”. The great problem of today is that many declare to have a religion, but they do not know what is the essential part of their religion, and often the little knowledge of their religion and the religion of the others gives space to “violent radicalism” and a life of darkness.

 At this point we can say that a Christian is invited to a “Holistic Christian Spirituality” and a Muslim to a “Holistic Islamic Spirituality”. Both can be considered part of the “New Holistic Spiritualities”. People of other religions who practice their religion with sincere hearts can also claim to move toward their understanding of “holistic Spirituality”. Thus, we try to say here that the new holistic spirituality has to incorporate all the positive holistic aspects that we might find in cultures and traditions of the past, and the present and also the traditional medicines and the use of plants. We might explore also some forms of meditation coming from religions different from our religion, but at the end we have to have the capacity to make a synthesis that helps us to harmonize all the positive aspects of the holistic spirituality that we find, and have to have the capacity to see them related to the essential part of the spirituality that we follow, guided by our own religion. This dynamic journey has to help us to rediscover the radical love that helps us to make radical changes and to avoid to enter a stage of “syncretism” of religion where often one becomes disoriented.

 We have to believe that a radical love brings people towards radical change if each one is committed sincerely to move together in “unity” not in “uniformity”. We have to believe that one who has a specific faith is guided in all aspects of life by that belief that is not only a formulation of article of faith and devotion, but a deeper answer to the “search for more “ in life.

 I recall here an experience of Silsilah Years ago I approached Dr. Gonzales the president of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU)of Zamboanga City, to present a plan of seminar for teachers. On that occasion the president told me: “ Father, we have an urgent problem in our campus with some groups who create troubles and divisions among fraternities and other groups. They have reached also to different forms of violence. Please help us do something first for these students.” Understanding the situation and the gravity of it considering also that it became a conflict among Muslim and Christian groups, Silsilah decided to invite the two groups. First the Muslims and then the Christians and at the end we put them together. The miracle happened. At the end they embraced each other asking forgiveness and it was a special program in WMSU to remember that event. When I asked some of them why they changed attitude and became friends they told us: “ When we arrived in Harmony Village you and your group listened to us without judging us, you treated us as friends , with love”. Elvis, the leaders of the “Chi Chi Gang”, a Muslim leader that all were afraid to meet, now is a very good leader and engineer. Another among them, a very dangerous boy, now is a good lawyer. Both of them and others of the groups have been with us to share to other youths their experience and how Silsilah transformed them. In reality it is God that
transforms hearts, but we are called to be instruments of God’s love with our love.

 Another experience that I often share is when I was negotiator of the MNLF in the area of Zamboanga Del Norte from 1979 to 1981. It was a long negotiation going to the forest and living with the rebels. I felt the need to do this mission inspired by love. I was a priest without a parish and community. It was my way to experience the love that Jesus urged me to share. The MNLF group understood and loved me to the point of risking their lives for me in many dangerous situations. On one occasion we were about to be attacked by the military and the commander of the MNLF of the area , well known as commander Magellan, with a long record of bombing and other acts of violence in Zamboanga and other places, told me to move to another
direction. Meanwhile they would find their way to survive. At that time I was convinced that I had to love them up to the end and I remained with them. Magellan was touched by my love for them and he came up with another act of love saying to me: “Ok, Padel (father), remain with us, we will protect you, If we will be attacked by the military, you will be the last to die”. That expression of love of Commander Magellan for me is always a point of reference in my mission of love for all. I am convinced that in the heart of each person, even those who are considered bad elements by the society, there is always a corner of goodness that God has planted in our hearts and never dies. This is the power of love that can transform a person, even if he/she is a victim of different forms of dependencies. Love cures many sicknesses as it is proven by many, including doctors.

 Thus, what is important is to believe that radical love needs a “radical vision”. Unfortunately there are those who spread “ideology” promoting physical and psychological violence. We do not need, at this point, to elaborate what is good and what is bad, but we can emphasize that there are those who are moved by a radical ideology of violence and those who are guided by a radical vision of love. In both cases the radical “motivation” changes life. Blessed are those who are guided by a vision of love that is a vision of goodness that helps people to die for that vision.

 I try to explain this concept with two examples from my experiences. One is from my personal life and vocation. When I was in a diocesan seminary in Italy, at the age of seventeen, I was already attracted to the vocation of priesthood and service to the people, but on one occasion a missionary came among the others and sharing his mission he said: “Dear seminarians, we have only one life and we have to spend it in the best of way. What do you do with your life?” This point and
question remained in my mind and heart and was the starting point of my missionary vocation to leave my country, my family and serve those who are more in need. This is why now I am here and for forty years I have been in the Philippines. It is not an easy life, but I am happy to live and dream with you a better future and I am willing to continue my mission here up to the end of my life.

 The other sharing is related to my experience as a negotiator for the MNLF rebels as one of my first missions. At that time I observed that almost all of the rebels were young. I used to have a lot of time to share and listen to their stories of fighting. What made me to reflect most living with them, was that they were very committed. Indeed, they were radically convinced in their ideology, ready to make a lot of sacrifices and even to die. Personally, I do not advocate any form of violence, but my reflection is: “ If people who advocate violence for their ideology are ready to do a lot of sacrifice and ready to die, why don’t those who advocate love and goodness not have the same great determination in moving with love?”

 One of the alarming aspects of our society is the increasing “radicalism with violence” justified by religion. It was a time when this form of radicalism was spread more among the Christians and now we find it more among Hindu and Muslim groups which move with radical ideology of violence. The most well known of these groups is now the so called Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS. We are not here to speculate who is sponsoring this or other groups or what is their real intention and what their goal is, but simply we say that there are today strong “radical ideologies” which promote violence. Thus, if there are those who choose a radical life with violence, why don’t we think of a radical life with love?

 In the life of the saints and the mystics in Christianity and Islam we have many examples and they emerge often in time of crisis in society. This means also that in this time of crisis and secularism that brings people far from God, God is at work. He intervenes in many ways, but also through people who experience a radical love and, in the process, they embrace radical changes in life.

 I recall here only two great examples of the twelfth (12 th ) century when Christianity was in a stage of showing more the power of this world than the power of God and Islam was in a stage of internal conflicts and divisions.

 One is Francis of Assisi, a Christian who made a great journey toward God through a process of radical choice in his life that still now remains an example to imitate in the journey of a radical love and spirituality. The stigmata in his body became the visible signs of this love that transformed his life and he became closer to the life of Jesus.

 The other one is Gazzali, a well-respected Muslim scholar, who at certain point of his life made a radical choice attracted by the urgent need to experience the radical love of God. He is well known as a Sufi who abandoned his brilliant career to experience the “taste of God” in life.



 We have shared up to now some challenges related to spirituality and health, the new holistic spirituality, and radical love towards radical change. Now I try to share the spirit that I proposed at the beginning when we started the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in 1984. This will help me to introduce the new plan of Silsilah to help people with dependencies.


 Many know that Silsilah promotes the spirituality of life-in- dialogue with God, with the Self, with Others and with Creation. These are considered the four pillars of this spirituality that we present introducing the concept of the “Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace”. It is a culture that has to be lived and promoted first as a process of personal transformation to be able to transform society.

 At the beginning of Silsilah we proposed to those who wished to enter in the spirituality of life-in- dialogue two clear points of reference and inspiration. For the Christians we proposed to deepen the understanding of the “Beatitudes” of Jesus and for the Muslims the concept of the great Jihad.

– Beatitudes
 The Gospel presents to us the formula of happiness that a Christian has to follow. This formula is presented in the Gospel (Mt. 5, 6-12) as the “Beatitudes”. It is a new formula of happiness very different from what the world proposes. In fact it starts calling blessed the poor in spirit, the gentle, those who mourn, those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, those who are merciful, the pure in heart , the peace makers and even those who are persecuted for the cause of Justice, and end saying: «Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God».

The Drug dependence is the body's physical need, or addiction, to a specific agent. There is,
therefore, virtually no difference between dependency and addiction. Over the long term, this
dependence results in physical harm, behaviour problems, and association with people who also
abuse drugs. Among the many news and statistics we present the comment of Esplanada, Jerry E. (June 28, 2012). & Chinese drug syndicates behind drug trade in Philippines, says US". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 7, 2016.

 This is the radical love that Silsilah proposed, since the beginning, to the Christians who wish to follow this spirituality.

– Great Jihad
 The formula of the great jihad is proposed by Silsilah to the Muslims. It is a deep and radical concept of Islamic spirituality practiced through the centuries especially by the sufis and those who follow the deeper message of Islam. The word “Jihad” means “struggle”. The “great Jihad” is a struggle of purification, and internal struggle. It is a spiritual radical journey that Islam proposes, although often we hear about “jihad” in a form of war and violence. This is a big challenge that Islam has to present to the Muslims and to share to the world if we wish to change the perception of many of a “violent Islam” that is not the real Islam. But it is the Islam that many perceive now. This is a great challenge that we have in our mission of dialogue and in this effort to propose a radical love for radical change on the side of goodness.

 We do not present here the Culture of Dialogue but we try to propose a concept and a program for people with dependencies guided by the spirituality of life in-dialogue promoted by Silsilah convinced that it
is an answer to people with dependencies.

 This is a specific attention that we formulate in line with the “dialogue with others”. There are different forms of dependencies, the most common are: alcohol, drug, sex, gambling, power, money, etc. The recent issue of drug dependence in the Philippines is becoming dramatic.


“The illegal drug trade in the Philippines remains a serious national concern. According to Reuters, the President-elect of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has predicted the country could become a  narco-state ; if the country is tide of drug addiction is not pushed back. In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia, and according to a U.S. State Department report, 2.1 percent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 use the drug, which is known locally as shabu;. On Metro Manila most barangays are being affected by illegal drugs. According to the 2011 UN Drug Report, the Philippines has the highest methamphetamine hydrochloride abuse rate.


 We are alarmed by the reality of dependence, and also of the method used by the new government to control drug dependence. We join those who remind the government that drug users and often drug pushers are also victims of a “sick society”. Here we do not enter in the analysis of the cause of the crisis that is real and urgent to be addressed. We only say that the crisis is not only in the Philippines, but around the world. Some of the factors that aggravate this situation are the increasing materialistic society and the increasing fear and violence created by geo-politic strategies that also use religions. This alarming situation urges us to counteract the “radical violence” and dependencies with goodness that we identify here as “radical love” that
remind us the centrality of God and the need to move towards radical changes that bring peace and harmony in the world.

 Challenged by this new situation we are reflecting and planning to give our contribution of ideas and action proposing the “seven steps” (or seven Rs).

The phenomenon of the drug dependence in the world is increasing. Going back to the recent
history of this phenomenon we find a more visible presence of people with dependence on
alcohol. This problem has been addressed in many ways around the world. The most consistent and well known started in the United States with dependence of alcohol and is also used now for the drug dependent in the Philippines. It is called “Alcoholics Anonymous” (AA). It is a method founded in 1935, two years after the end of Prohibition in the United States and during the Great Depression. The co-founders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith—both alcoholics—had a chance meeting that year. With each other's help, they both achieved lasting sobriety.The identity of AA took shape in the following years, and it was solidified in 1939 when Bill Wilson completed the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, which lays out the 12 step program:


1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure
them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we
understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this
message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.



 What I presented up to now encourage me to propose the following SEVEN STEPS/ seven Rs:

The RECONCILIATION STAGE is the first step when one is invited to undergo voluntarily to this program with humility and hope. In this stage one is helped to reconcile with God, with the Self, with Others and with Creation emphasizing the importance of the four pillars that Silsilah proposes to all and also to people of dependence with the hope that they can enter in this new dimension of “relation/dialogue” as part of the important foundation of the reconciliation process.

The REMOVAL OF OBSTACLES is a stage when one is encouraged to “stop” the source of problem. Identifying alone or in group, the history of life, the obstacles encountered in life, the cause of the dependencies, etc. It is a stage of unfolding life using appropriate methods as writing a diary, painting, group sharing and other activities with the spirit of respect of privacy of the person or others involved in the process of the unfolding personal stories of dependence.
(The removal of obstacles here in the spirit of “Removal” of the shoes… removal of an obstacle from the eyes or any obstacle if it is an occasion of sin. Sometimes an obstacle can be also reoriented but the courage to “Remove” is important if needed).


The REBUILDING VALUES stage is a time when one has to concretely plan to have a new style of life following the values that has been learned up to this stage, starting from the first stage of “reconciliation”, and the second stage of the “removal of obstacles” in order to enter in a stage of visible rebuilding/transformation, even if difficult. In this context a discipline in life, a regularity in meditation and prayer and the reading of stories of saints and other personalities who have changed their lives after a stage of “dependence and sin” can help to rebuild what was destroyed and experience real happiness based on values.

The REDISCOVERING LOVE stage is important to have a new relation in society, with friends and family. This is possible if one starts to appreciate and practice a life of simplicity and “purity” of eyes, mind, heart and memory. One can deepen this stage entering closer to the spirit of “solidarity and charity” that one can find in models present in society, in the religion that professed and through a deeper study of the dominant element of life and following some basic teaching of faith on love and solidarity. It is a concrete invitation and guide towards a “new holistic spirituality” that it is possible to experience if one is determined to take seriously the way to happiness that brings to God and to the need to love in a form of service as God tells us in the sacred books and in many witnesses of the past and present. In this stage we propose appropriate messages from the Holy Books and touching stories of those who have changed life and the deeper meaning of love.

To RESIST TEMPTATION is an important aspect of this journey and not only a stage. It is a continuous effort with the help of a spiritual guide. To be more effective in this aspect of recovering process it is important also to put order in the style of life, the quality of food, the time to rest and to be in contact with nature find time to touch the ground and do some manual work, especially touch the soil and learn how to plant, care and share the gift of nature. This will be also a spiritual exercise where one is also trained to respect people and nature and rediscover the holistic aspect of life through a simplicity of living to be more prepared to resist temptations. A good way to resist temptation is to have a support group of friends that can help like the “anonymous alcoholic” of other similar groups but the most effective is a group giving attention to meditation, prayer and solidarity.

The REFLECTION stage is a step to appreciate and experience the new beginning and the gift of God. It is a continuous stage but in this step of “reflection” it is encouraged to have a special time and focus. It can be a long or short time, but a quality time in a retreat and silence alone, and if possible, in groups or with the spiritual guide that can be the same of the beginning of this special journey or another. This is a special time when one can assess the relation/dialogue with God, with the Self, with other and with Creation ready to rediscover and apply all the learnings in order to reach a stage when one can really feel the experience of radical love. This is a stage when one has to stand alone even without a “support group” because it is a stage of a new discoveries and new opportunities outside the limited group.

The REJOY stage is the last in this list of the seven steps and it is a time when one can honestly say that the life is changed and has achieved the internal peace. Thus, it is time to accept the invitation to become a “wounded healer”. It means a person “wounded” in life because of a certain form of “slavery” that we can call dependence or trauma, but now one has reached the level of internal peace and can make a formal commitment to share this experience with joy. If for some reason one cannot do it, he/she has to make a promise to help one or more others with dependence in a private way by creating a small group, if needed “anonymous” and, if possible, sustain and support them in all possible ways.

 These seven steps are part of an initial reflection of Silsilah in line with its mission.



 We in Silsilah are challenged to continue the reflection started in this School of Holistic Care convinced that we still need to grow in many ways. But this is a good beginning and this specific presentation on spirituality towards radical love for radical change becomes, for us, in Silsilah a new occasion to give a special attention to people with dependencies.

 It is important for all of us to remember the inspiration of this topic. Thus, we can say:

“Do not be afraid to be touched by the love of God”.

He is ready to transform our life in any situation we are because God is the real love and happiness that we are searching for. I hope that all of us, like St. Augustine, can reach the point to say:

“My heart is restless until it rests in you my God.”

 God bless you all.

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