After a connection in Vienna, a small plane brings me at Klagenfurt
in Carinthia, of which Jorg Haider is the governor. Slovenia
border is very close.
Down town, a specific event is happening in a bookshop. Helga,
the director and also a publisher, is receiving a European award
for Human Rights. This award concerns also all those whom are
working in this bookshop to make it a crossroad of cultures with
publications in several languages. They also manage to give the
power of speech to refugees and minorities. This event offers
the opportunity of inviting authors and setting a network of
The media are there. What can they say? I admire Helga for
her courage. She defends free speech, she is on the side of the
refugees and she dare to publish committed writers.
The situation is not easy, future is gloom but Helga and her
team are determined. Nobody is afraid and every body is pleased
that I came from France to support them and to stimulate them
to go on
Six years ago a major Tunisian opponent, Salah Karker, is
placed under house arrest and separated from his family. Today
he still has not the right to leave Digne, a small county city
in the Alps of Provence.
I arrive by car from Geneva, invited by the President of the
local association of Human rights. Salah Karker is welcomed in
a humble and quite boarding house, remote from the town center.
I was with his wife to meet him; she is living in the vicinity
of Paris with their six children.
When I had to leave Evreux in 1995, Salah sent me a fax to protest
against what was happening to me and to support me. He always
kept a copy of this fiery fax. It was my turn to support him
In 1988, France gave him political asylum. In 1993, Charles Pasqua
the former Minister of Interior, back from Tunis, decided to
put him under house arrest without explanation. After all these
years he still had not been to trial although he would like to:"
Either I am guilty and they cannot put me in a hotel, or I am
not guilty and they cannot put me under arrest". Today the
affair is in the hands of the Committee of Human Rights of UNO.
I had the pleasure to have diner with Salah and his wife, and
then we went to the conference-debate at the cultural Center
of Digne. There was a high level discussion with a lot of people.
A support committee is set up. Salah is a happy man.
At the Forensic Institute
Francoise dyed suddenly, she was just forty, homeless, and
for a long time a beaten woman, she had met Jean-Claude who respected
her and was taking care of her. Both were homeless, living insecure,
eating at the soup kitchen. They could not speak to each other
without shouting, always arguing but they were in love with each
other and one could not live without the other.
Jean-Claude wanted me to bless her at the Forensic Institute.
Immediately with two members of the association who know her,
we went there. By looking at the face of his lover, Jean-Claude
burst into tears: " I just have offered her a coat,"
he said to me.
I prayed to God in a loud voice and did the blessing before closing
We went to the suburb, to a huge cemetery; we stopped at the
place where people without a tomb are buried. Three women from
the soup kitchen were waiting and carrying flowers.
I have just pronounced the last farewell when Jean-Claude had
the last word. "My Francoise, I love you of all my heart.
My darling you are all for me. I will come back to see you. I
At the next Café, we took time for a friendly meal. Jean-Claude
told me: "Was it OK what I said to Francoise?
At the Adda'wa Mosque
At the Mosque cultural center in the 19th district of Paris,
teaching sessions are regularly organized on Saturdays. It happened
to me to participate several times, invited by the rector of
the mosque. People are Moslems, men on one side, women on the
other side. The object? Violence. I was mentioning my problem:
how can religions lead to violence and apply the law of retaliation:
eye for eye, tooth for tooth?
Recently Nigeria was affected by a wave of violence between Moslems
and Christians with more than a thousand deaths. Would violence
be a constant component of religious history?
I begun with Jesus' teaching: the Sermon on the Mount, the monks
from Thibirine, in Algeria, took it seriously.
It is an invitation to get rid of the violence that is in every
one of us, a spiritual request that allow us to get over the
retaliation law and to respect the dignity of the opponent.
The monks on the Atlas had chosen the way of non-violence,
accepting to be without weapon and unprotected. The lived an
opened friendship. Have I been understood? This teaching looked
quite new for many.