The parishioners of Partenia
A woman is standing waiting for a bus that seemed to take
a long time to come. She came up to me and said: " From
time to time I see you taking the bus and each time, I wanted
to ask you a question. What should I do to find God? ".
" I was coming back from the suburbs where I was with Gipsy
families threatened with expulsion. I had the feeling that God
was there amongst these poor people. Right by their side."
Together we climb aboard the bus.
- " I would like to believe, but I cannot. Yet, I do
try to find God. "
" Like you, I am looking to find God. When we hold the hand
of the poor, then we are on the way to God. "
I indicated I had to leave the bus. " Too bad " she
In the subway, a young man that I thought to be from Indian
origin came to sit next to me.
"Am I disturbing you? There is something I would like to
ask you. I am not a Christian but I read the Bible and there
is a word from Jesus that I do not understand: " To a man
who has, more will be given. But he who does not have, even what
he has will be taken away."
" I wish your question were about another word. This word
is mysterious to me. I have searched long to find its meaning.
"We have inside each of us spiritual and human richness.
They are others. One who tries to keep them for himself, will
loose them. What we accept to give to others will be transformed
"The man thanked me for this explanation.
On the train leaving Montpellier to go to Paris, there
was no seating available. I stood close to the doors, happy to
have been able to be on board.
Quickly, a man of Asian origin jumped up from his foldup seat
and said: " Take my seat", and I am not doing this
because you are a " monsignor ", but because you are
an old man ".
I took his seat. This man knew how to see the human being before
- Conflict in the city
- The inhabitants of "Petit-Bard", a working-class
borough of Montpellier, are not throwing in the towel. In a derelict
building, unfit for habitation, a fire caused one death and many
casualties. The poor families decided to occupy a near by gymnasium.
They refused to go back in their apartments and were asking the
city officials to relocate them.
"Petit-Bard" is a city of immigrants that has become
a ghetto over the years.
The families, a majority of which comes from Morocco, do not
want to be pushed around anymore.
Asked to bring them support, I joined them in a visit at the
abandoned building. What a shame to see the bad state of this
Signs are covering the walls and it can be read: " "Petit-Bard":
Abandoned city. Endangered City. Danger".
With the "Movement for Immigrants and their Lodging",
the Christian association Cimade and the association "Lodging
Rights" (DAL) and other associations, a resistance is organized
that lead to a demonstration of more than 1000 people in the
city. This had never happened before.
It was the first time that the inhabitants of "Petit-Bard"
get together and wanted to see it through. They understood that
nothing would happen without them and their fight.
Till now the authorities have turned a deaf ear.
In the Parisian suburbs, Gipsy families who are continually
expelled from their camping have found refuge on a land owned
by the General Council. They have been promised to not being
expelled. But the town officials don't think that way and try
everything they can to make them leave.
- Invited by the organisations that help them, I went to
meet the families who are living in tents.
- At the end of the afternoon, a demonstration was held
in the street close to their place.
It was a stormy meeting. It was even difficult to be heard. About
fifteen persons, including the Secretary of the Mayor's Office,
were opposing to our demonstration and shouting at us. The
leader of the demonstration asked me to speak. At this moment,
the opponents, all together, left conspicuously the meeting.
While coming back to Paris, I was thinking: today, in our
non-religious societies, one is not rejected because of his faith
in God or his beliefs. That is a personal choice that is a part
of our privacy. But rejection comes from our solidarity with
the poorest who live near us. For many caring for the poor is