23 January 2015, The Tablet

Vanier says Je Suis Charlie marches created more division

The millions-strong Je Suis Charlie march in Paris protesting at the killings by Islamist terrorists has created further divisions in French society, according to L’Arche founder Jean Vanier.

Instead of the protest that infuriated many Muslims, there should have been a call to mutual respect, he told an audience at the House of Lords on Monday.

Mr Vanier was speaking on the theme “Why do the strong need the weak”, at an event that was organised by the Together for the Common Good organisation, and included a discussion between Vanier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster.

(Video courtesy of Together for the Common Good)

When he was asked about the killings and subsequent march in Paris by the event’s chairwoman, Sarah Montague, Mr Vanier questioned the wisdom of both Charlie Hebdo, the magazine that was targeted by the Islamists, publishing the cartoons, and the protest march following the death of 10 journalists and cartoonists, three police officers and four people held hostage at a Jewish bakery.

“There were few Muslims at the march, instead many were furious because of the cartoons. For some people to make fun of what is precious is a form of violence,” said Mr Vanier. “Rather we have to create places where we come together.”

Cardinal Nichols voiced his support for Mr Vanier’s comments, saying: “We should be ready to repudiate violence and there was real violence in the magazine; the cartoons were there to make people angry. It is all very well to have the right to insult each other but we should also respect one another.”

Now aged 86, Mr Vanier founded the L’Arche communities for people with disabilities in the 1960s after a career as a naval officer and as a philosopher and theologian. He told the packed meeting at the House of Lords that L’Arche communities were places of patience, where people felt they belonged, and were open to the wider community. Lessons could be learned by society from L’Arche, he said, about the need to listen to people.

“We need to work together for a common purpose, to create places where we can meet together. Growth begins when we learn to accept our own weakness. People who listen to the weakest are transformed,” said Mr Vainer.

Together for the Common Good is a national initiative founded to encourage Christians to work together for the common good. It was founded by Jenny Sinclair to develop the legacy of the ecumenical partnership between her late father, David Sheppard, the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool and the late Derek Worlock, the Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool.

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