Log-book: December 2006
In Madrid The tragedy of Beit Hanoun L'Arche Community At the Court of Law
The Conference of Religious Spanish Orders had invited me to speak on the subject: " New frontiers for today's mission ", I had the feeling of breathing the offshore wind. The person in charge met me at the Madrid airport and quickly put me at ease: " Everything you want to say, say it. We are very open. "
The assembly of nearly two hundred people actually showed a remarkable openness. Most of them had lived in Africa or Latin America in risky places where the lives of women, men and children were in danger. The lives of these missionaries had been changed.
Staying at the nuns' House, I celebrated mass the best I could in Spanish!
All the religious orders present at the Convention knew each other. Each had an international implication. They were all used to working together and keep contact. I witnessed their joyful reunion.
We spoke about AIDS in African countries and what is done in the field of prevention against AIDS. We also talked about the arms trade and what is done by the " Justice and Peace" committees.
Religious life is not removed from the great problems of society. It is where the action is.
When we hold the hand of the poor, we prepare the roads for peace.
The tragedy of Beit Hanoun
- The massacre in the middle of the night of 19 Palestinian civilians by Israeli shells has caused indignation. Women and children have perished.
A demonstration was organized on Bastille Square in Paris. We were in shock.
The demonstrators expressed their anger and their solidarity with the Palestinian people who has suffered an endless humiliation every day, has been hurt in its flesh and has been deprived of its rights.
Flags of the organizations were streaming in the wind. I recognized the Hezbollah flags. The banners, slogans, condemned the colonial politics of Israel and the inertia of the international community.
Conversations were being heard all around me:
"Using targeted shots, the Israeli army killed the leaders of the Hamas. How can the Hamas be expected to change while under pressure? It can only drive the Hamas to breaking off politics with Israel."
"The Palestinian Authority has been destroyed, how can it exercise power?"
"What the European Community was able to do in Lebanon, will it have the courage to do the same for the protection of the Palestinians?"
- When no more can be expected from the international community, violence takes over. In their sorrow, the Palestinians cry for revenge.
We have to hang on, remain confident!
L'Arche was founded by Lanza del Vasto. Christian families live together in the old Saint Anthony Abbey continually under restoration. It is a place of great beauty that is an attraction for many tourists. Each family has its own apartment. The gardens of the Abbey look like paradise. The mountains of the Vercors are silhouetted against the horizon.
L'Arche Community is much attached to non-violence and the respect of nature. With a vegetarian diet of course. Prayer has its place.
Each day, I take breakfast in a family and I take the evening meal with another one. This way I can make contact with young people. I feel these young people distant from L'Arche and indifferent to religion. Their concerns are elsewhere. Saint Anthony Abbey is far from the town centres and the universities.
At noon, it is time for the community meal. On a large table are placed dishes of vegetables and fruits. Everyone serves himself. In addition, water or tea is offered.
In the morning, I insist on peeling the vegetables: a great opportunity to make friends. The commitments of the Community are targeted: peace, ending the nuclear, rejection of GMO (Genetically modified organisms) crops.
I enjoyed my stay of three days in the Community where I spoke on the subject given to me: Jesus said " I am the way, the truth and the life " (John 14, 6). Before leaving, a person in charge asked me: " What piece of advice would you give for the future of L'Arche? " " Ask the young people. "
At the Court of Law
I was summoned as a witness to appear in Court. An activist of the organization " Droits devant (Rights first) " of which I am co-chairman, had been accused of violence against a police officer. Today, this type of accusation is common. There is a logic of repression against activists known to the police.
It was impossible for every body to go into the cramped courtroom. Nevertheless, the important thing is that a great number of activists were there.
Since its foundation 13 years ago, the " Droits devant" organization takes pride to be non-violent. It is a known fact to the police.
It was a long time to wait. For the second time, the Court decided to postpone the trial.
Once we had left the Court House, we met on the Court of Law Square with all those who had come to show their support. The police was there.
We got together nearby in the " St. Michel area " where we could get together. What had not been said in Court was possible here where everyone could speak.
I recalled a personal souvenir: ' the man on trial today was with me in the occupied territories in Palestine. When he saw how the Palestinian people were humiliated, he showed his indignation. He could not support the injustice made to those people. The Palestinians present felt they had been recognized in their dignity".