Log-book: January 1999
TO HAVE A ROOF
In the heart of Paris a theatre that has remained empty for eight years is suddenly occupied by some 200 people who live in precarious circumstances or on the street. The children show their joy at being there and have fun playing with the decors. A young mother, with her child in her arms, confides her distress to me: her husband has been in prison for the last 18 months and has not yet come to trial; her other child is in care. Tomorrow morning, the head of the home where she has been living is throwing her out because of a dispute. She does not know where to go.
Bruno has died of aids. A young militant of the Committee of the Homeless, everyone loved him. The cathedral of Nanterre is full of those who are 'without': without work, without a roof, without personal documentation. It is not often that the crowd on the outside of the cathedral takes over and uses their voice ! With much emotion, many come forward to place a candle by the coffin.
I recall one of the last meetings with Bruno, in hospital. The nurses left me alone with him. I hold his hand while he gets ready to pass over to the other margin. His eyes are now closed to the light of this world. I talk to him or rather I talk to God about Bruno.
IN THE COURT OF JUSTICE - With the Basques
The trial of the Basque political prisoners begins. The court room is full. Basques have travelled all night by bus to be there. I am among them. There are many policemen. I am happy to see again a woman who runs a restaurant in Bayonne. Her children are with her. Her husband, who is being held in the prison of Fleuris Mérogis is brought to the place of the accused. She herself runs the risk of being imprisoned which would be a catastrophe for the whole family, for the children, for the restaurant...I wrote to the president of the court about this matter. To my surprise, he refers to my letter and reads it out. A Basque priest comes to the bar. He defends with enthusiasm the cause of the Basque people. The people present break out in applause. When leaving the court we go to the Latin Quarter of the town to sit round and eat a couscous. It is already late when the Basques courageously make their way back to their distant country.
IN THE COURT ROOM - With the Kurds
The court room is the same but now the trial is of 17 Kurds who have been in prison for over three years! They were eighteen but one of them committed suicide in his cell...a few hours before he court ordered his release. He was 28 years old, was reading sociology and was a militant in the cause of the recognition of the rights of the Kurds. He could not longer stand his incarceration.
I am called as a witness. The Kurdish prisoners look at me and pay attention to what I am saying. Before the court, I describe the various trips I have made to Kurdistan, I explain my presence in the court at Ankara when some political prisoners were brought to trial. I attempt to describe the describe the distress of the Kurdish People, driven out of their villages, of their land, victims of the repression of the military over the last 14 years. These young Kurds are brought to trial with no thought for their murdered kin, for whom they are struggling.
SEEN FROM BELOW - Sitting at a table
Mourad, a young Algerian, is invited to the home of a family to have a meal with me. He has no legal documentation and no work. He has known much hardship as others and is attempting to survive. We take our seats round the table. After eating a salad, the mother of the family brings in a meat stew with potatoes. She gives Mourad a large helping. After a fez mouthfulls, Mourad pushes his plate aside. One of the children who has never taken its eyes off him, asks: 'Don't you like the food?' 'Yes, of course I do' replies Mourad with a slightly embarassed air. 'It is very good'. The child insists: 'But the meal is not over - we still have to eat the dessert !' The mother says a word of encouragement: 'Eat it up for it will do you good. See how thin you are !' Mourad makes an effort but to no avail. And then the father of the house says: 'What is wrong?' 'Everything is fine but I no longer have the habit of eating a meal. I only eat very small quantities during the day. To vanquish hunger I smoke a cigarette. It has been a long time since I had a proper meal.'
To observe society with the eyes of the people from below, is not customary, and brings an entire new light. To be able to view things in this way is very precious. Jesus, molded by Nazareth, did he not bring forward this look from below in order to see the mystery of God?
SEEN FROM BELOW - In the Municipality
Abdallah has asked me to be a witness in his marriage. I had the joy of doing so on the 14th of July, in the place de la Bastille, in the midst of the crowd. He has not official documentation. His companion is a French woman. I meet them in the entrance hall of the municipality. Abdallah seems restless. He is closely watching those who pass by. To pass the time, he lights a cigarette.
PS: Partenia some figures, 1997
Total number of pages published monthly on the WEB last year: 175
Total number of pages presented in seven laguages on the WEB last year: 63'875
Total number of visitors last year: 92'000
Increase of visitors last year: 22'000
Monthly average of visitors: 7'660
Number of e-mail messages received by Bishop Jacques Gaillot: 2'300
Number of e-mail messages received by the Webmaster: 346