In a small village of France, my cousin was celebrating her
fiftieth year in a religious order. She came from Jerusalem where
she had spent more than forty years working in a hospital. Her
large family insisted that the event be celebrated with dignity.
Everyone there, young and old, make it a point of honour to be
a practising Catholic.
The celebration in the church of the village inaugurated the
festivities. The younger generation was in charge of the activities.
At the beginning of the mass, it came to my mind that I should
not make a sermon. Would it not be better to ask my cousin to
say a word? After the Gospel had been proclaimed, I asked her
to come to the microphone. I expected her to refuse but she accepted
willingly and gave a beautiful testimony of her faith in front
of all her family gathered there.
When I asked her what had been more precious for her during
her fifty years in a religious order, she answered: " it
is to have been loved by God and to have experienced his fidelity
throughout the years ".
It was impossible for me not to ask her about the Palestinians:
" how did you live through the split between these two peoples?
". " It is painful, even in my own community. And I
saw the sufferings of the Palestinians and the injustice they
are victim of on a daily basis ". You could hear a pin drop
in the assembly.
In the community centre, refreshments and different meals
prepared by the families had been placed on a large table. Everyone
helped himself or herself. Everything was done with simplicity.
This togetherness felt good.
- An unexpected agreement
The committee for the illegal refugees of Lille has invited
me to visit those that were on their 56-day of a hunger strike,
especially those who were in serious condition at the hospital.
It was during a heat wave.
- I was greeted at the station and immediately led to the
Job Opportunities Centre (Bourse du travail). Under the tents,
groups of strangers from different nationalities were lying there,
exhausted and much thinner. Some women were also there. I insisted
on speaking with each man and each woman, and tried to encourage
them. They smiled and applauded me when I was saying: "
once your status is regularized, it will be time for celebration.
Do not forget to invite me when you are out of bed so I can see
you on your own two legs ".
The visit of the hospitals in the area was very tiring. I
shook hands with young people speaking mostly with their eyes.
I see desperation in them.
Surprise: I was invited to attend a meeting organized by the
Prefect of the area. I rushed out of the hospital to attend this
meeting in company of the rector of the mosque of Lille and the
auxiliary bishop. The Prefect asked to end the hunger strike.
In return he will kindly re-examine the files so that the regularization
can be done in the months to come.
I left to go back to the hospitals to announce the good news
to the illegal refugees. This announcement is incredible good
news to them. Many of them cry out of joy. In the departments,
doctors and nursing staff are happy and relieved. The hunger
strike will come to an end.
At the village market
In company of my nephew and my great-nephew, I went of the
market to buy a few things. We stopped in front of a stand with
sweat suits and sportswear. The young salesman was a coloured
man. He looked at me carefully. I felt his hesitation but did
nothing to help him out.
After a moment, he firmly held out his hand to me saying:
' I know you ". He was visibly happy to have recognized
me. I congratulated him. I learned he was Pakistani.
" I know what you do for foreigners, he told me, and I appreciate
your attention to everyone ".
These unexpected words brought to my mind the attitude of
Jesus. When he meets someone along the way, he takes his time
to be with that person. He gives that person time so that the
person can change and recognize him. He leaves the group to be
present to that person.
Does he not invite us to adopt the same attitude? "
What you will do to one of these children who are my brothers
". Jesus does not say what you do for " the crowd "
but to " one " of these children.
The young Pakistani was still looking at me. He was totally absorbed
in making me a gift. A gift that I gave to my little nephew.