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Wednesday, June 21st
As an outward-looking community, L’Arche embraces the vast and rich diversity of the world. We come from many different countries; we hold many different beliefs; we have many different gifts; but together, we form one L’Arche, making one worldwide community.
Unity in diversity: that is our direction of travel.
Report Patrick and Eileen
Yesterday, arrival; today, it is down to work! First up, the report of the International Leaders, Patrick Fontaine and Eileen Glass. Three stand-out moments in a very full presentation.
First, judging from the spontaneous applause, for many of us, the crucial sentence was this: “since Atlanta, L'Arche has passed from an idealisation of our history to an adult understanding. We have seen how, in our history, power has been abused. So we have to keep working on being honest, transparent, and accountable.”
Secondly, “L'Arche is benefiting more and more from the contribution of our members with a disability at International level: for instance, close work together led to the discovery of the three vital words to express membership of L'Arche: choosing, being chosen, and dialoguing.”
And finally: “no one of our communities can truly flourish if any of our communities lack the means to flourish. We are hopeful for the future.”
AsIAm becomes AsWeAre
“L'Arche is about giving each person a standing ovation.” This is what Michael MacDonald told delegates at the L'Arche Federation Assembly this morning. Michael works with Amber Herkey to produce the AsIAm web series of films. These films are about inclusion, giving a voice to many people not often heard. They came out of a painful experience of exclusion: a woman from L'Arche Uganda was refused a visa to the last Federation Assembly in Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Michael asked what her message would be to the Federation: “I am beautiful, so beautiful… respect me.” Out of her exclusion have come the films of unity.
But how often does a person with a disability really get a standing ovation? To really applaud a person, cheer them, show them we are overjoyed that they are here. Over the whole globe, too few are the places where this happens. Far too few. More often, many people hear the opposite message.
But this morning, here in Belfast, it was Larry’s turn to get a standing ovation. Larry, a member of L'Arche Belfast had told his story on film, and it had turned his life around, brought out hidden gifts. And suddenly, there was the man himself, walking towards the stage. We all stood up to applaud him. And Larry’s gave us two gifts. In the midst of our great diversity of countries, faiths and backgrounds, hopes and talents, he made us one body. And he showed us that unity is not a mountain to climb, but as simple as a gesture of kindness, from one person to the next.