I GREW UP during the Algerian War. On Sundays, in my small rural parish in Maine-et-Loire, we prayed for our village soldiers who had gone to war. Among them were my two brothers. I was very affected to know they were mobilized. They suffered from being sent to the pipebreaker. But I couldn’t help but think of all the victims of this conflict. I kept asking myself: “Why are our prayer intentions only directed towards a small group of people? » The parishioners were withdrawn into themselves.
For my part, a message from the Gospel challenged me, that of Christ to Peter in his boat: “Go out to sea. » This reflection matured during my youth, until at the age of 24, I decided to leave alone for the other side of the Mediterranean. My family did not criticize my choice, sensing that it was the result of long reflection. I arrived in Tiaret, in a small community in the northwest of Algeria. Living my Christian faith in a Muslim country posed no problem for me. I attended the celebrations in the presbytery which served as a place of prayer, where the neighborhood children came to play. I still remember the bread consecrated during communion, which was often the kesra (Algerian pancake). During Eid, the Muslim neighbors in my building brought me mountains of cakes! For six years, I lived in total fraternity with the Algerians. The discovery of this open Church was a founding moment, a journey of faith that illuminated my life.
Upon my return to France, I continued my involvement in parish activities and I participated in discussions on interreligious dialogue. Today, I live in a working-class neighborhood. I feel good there because I find this possibility of meeting with others. For example, I take my grandchildren to the park without the migrants waiting there disturbing us. Since my experience in Algeria, I am convinced that the borders between countries are not the main thing. What matters are the encounters with others. I draw my strength from this hope. Sometimes I am discouraged by the inward-looking discourse that is increasingly emerging. But you have to row against the tide. So, I try to keep my door open.