A ROM and EDI Regathering brought together 50 participants from 11 countries from the past 20+ years of both programs in Crikvenica, Croatia, October 12-16, 2022. The goal of this event was to come together to renew old friendships and form new ones, share and receive encouragement and new vision and motivation in bridging divides and serving the needs of their communities, and to talk about how to apply the principles of ROM and EDI to current challenges.
We heard from a number of ROM and EDI speakers from past years. Anthony Cordle spoke on our identity and purpose and Jesus’ identity and purpose. He also challenged us to examine our friendships: “With whom are you intentional in your friendship? Whom have you articulated it to? Ask each other how you are with God, spouse, children and keep each other accountable.” He continued the following morning speaking about the gift of forgiveness and sharing from his own rich life experience.
EDI Director Justin Kagin spoke about the Love Economy – specifically how the modern system of banking and debt enslaves impoverished individuals, families, and nations.
Maarten van der Fliert, General Director of ECPM spoke about faith and politics in the EU - how to live out our faith and principles in a divided Europe.
Former ROM Director Tihomir Kukolja on how we can be salt and light in divided and turbulent times.
We learned a lot from an inspiring panel with two journalists (Noemi Mena Montes and Sylvia Vrinceanu) and two women involved politics (Kristina Nano and Mihaela Kovacs) on how we can bring about change in our communities through small steps.
A highlight of the event was breaking up into groups by country to discuss what we see as the greatest challenges facing our countries and brainstorming ideas of how we can respond to them. The challenges were similar in the countries that presented their ideas afterwards: lack of respect for others and the environment; corruption and nepotism; division, lack of reconciliation, toxic leadership, and much more. While none of these problems have simple solutions, our group did have a few ideas - education (we had quite a few educators in our midst), top down and grassroots approaches, and starting with ourselves and our families and communities, among others.
We took time in the program to honor the memory of Allen Belton, who was an integral part of every ROM gathering from 2001 to 2017. His sense of humor, warmth, and unconditional love are greatly missed.
On the final morning, Alan Cutting spoke about what Jesus, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, can teach us about friendship. He pointed out that Jesus' disciples became his friends because he poured himself out to them, not because he received from them.
And ROM Director Bojan Ruvarac concluded the event with an encouragement to the participants as they returned home to continue to grow their friendships and find ways to work together to live out Jesus’ principles in their communities as they address challenges and injustices.
We hope that ROM Regathering participants will return to their communities as bridge builders and peacemakers, and help bring unity to communities divided along ethnic, religious, or socio-economic lines. Our time together reminded us that while our communities face many, many challenges, change is possible. Through the power of friendship and working together, we can bring about changess, if we start with ourselves and those closest to us in our sphere of influence and remember the power of small steps.