Coming from Provence in Touraine for the wedding of the daughter of a friendly couple, Béatrice and André are staying one night with Maryvonne and Pascal. The latter welcomed them without knowing them, at the invitation of the parents of the bride. “We would have thought we were staying with cousins! “, rejoiced Béatrice the next day. Opening one’s door to friends of friends, giving a glass of water to a pilgrim in front of one’s house, taking the time to listen to a neighbor alone, housing a refugee… So many more or less engaging gestures, but all carried out under the sign of hospitality, this virtue honored by all cultures, granted to fraternity, kindness, gratuitousness.
“Hospitality is a treasure”, sums up an African proverb, as if to counter the discourse of rejection of foreigners resonating in society. A fragile treasure though. Chinese wisdom bluntly warns: “The fish and the guest stink on the third day”, and linguists underline the relationship between the words hospitality and hostility, although they have opposite meanings. Because “hospitality raises the question of the foreigner: a passing stranger, not conforming to the mores of the place, potentially dangerous”, specifies Claudio Monge*, Dominican living in Istanbul, engaged in interreligious dialogue.
She always engages the divine
Openness to the other to go a long way together involves a risk: where will it lead? When encountering God, the biblical tradition responds, like other religious traditions for that matter: “Hospitality, in its munificence, would always represent and involve the divine. In a way, it would always be a god who is received or another mysterious one, sent from God! adds the Dominican.
How to live daily a virtue carrying such an ambition? For several years, Marie-Claire, 60, has been involved in a practice of hospitality within JRS Welcome in Metz, a branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service. A room available in his accommodation allows him, with the support of a local team, to participate in the reception of an asylum seeker who will successively stay with several families. Among the 80 homes that have opened their doors, some are Christians, others Muslims, atheists or Jews. Often, those welcoming have realized that they themselves have been welcomed at some point in their lives.
“Confidence can grow”
“One day, in a village in Burkina Faso where we were cooperating, remembers Marie-Claire, a host left us his hut when our car broke down. Without compensation. I knew then that trust could grow with someone you don’t know. However, this social action professional embarked on welcoming refugees for the precise framework provided by JRS: “A person is entrusted to us for five weeks, after which they are looked after by another family. It is accompanied by a referent, and a charter lays the foundations for good practices in hosting at home. » This support makes it possible to take full advantage of hospitality in its dimensions of gratuitousness and welcoming others: « We do not choose the person who comes to stay under our roof. It does not matter his nationality, his political opinions, his religion, ”appreciates Marie-Claire. The surprise of the meeting sharpens the delicacy of those welcomed and welcoming: “An elderly couple asked that the person welcomed into their home return to their room early in the evening, because the staircase of their house creaks, and, at 85 years old, they are light sleepers. The double meaning of the word host, in French, indicates the reciprocity at stake in hospitality: welcomed and welcoming receive from each other while respecting obligations. In shared daily life, the representations of the other fall, fear fades, people can grow.
The treasure of hospitality enriches the hosts. “We have made so much progress with each other, experienced more and more adjusted and free relationships. It’s fabulous,” enthuses Marie-Claire. And this treasure is not locked up in safes: who wants to use it? The unknown who awaits hospitality may not be so far away: work colleague, neighbor, and even that very close one already under my roof…
* Author with Gilles Routhier of Daring hospitality: at the school of Pierre Claverie and Christian de Chergé, Ed. Bayard, 132 p. ; €17.90.