A young woman who was very ill said to me last year, “I love life.” I remain deeply moved by the inner joy that filled her, in spite of the narrow limits imposed by her illness. I was touched not only by her words, but by the beautiful expression on her face.
And what can we say about the joy of children? Recently I saw some children in Africa whose presence, even in refugee camps where so many tragic stories are concentrated, makes life burst forth. Their energy transforms a mass of broken lives into a nursery full of promise. If they knew how much they help us to remain hopeful! Their happiness at being alive is a ray of light.
We would like to be enlightened by such examples as we undertake, throughout the year 2018, a reflection on joy, one of the three realities—with simplicity and mercy—that Brother Roger set at the heart of the life of our community at Taizé.
With one of my brothers I went to Juba and Rumbek, in SOUTH SUDAN, then to Khartoum, the capital of SUDAN, to better understand the situation of those two countries and to pray alongside women and men who are among the most afflicted people of our time.
We visited various churches and saw their work of teaching, of solidarity, of caring for the ill and the excluded. We were received in a camp for displaced persons, where many children stay who were lost by their parents in the course of tragic events.
I was particularly impressed by the women. The mothers, often very young, bear a large part of the suffering caused by violence. Many had to flee their homes in haste. And yet they remain at the service of life. Their courage and their hope are exceptional.
That visit has brought us still closer to the young refugees from Sudan whom we have been welcoming in Taizé over the last two years.
Before this, two other brothers and I were in EGYPT for a five-day young adult gathering at the Anafora Community, founded in 1999 by a Coptic Orthodox bishop. We spent time praying, getting to know one another and discovering the long and rich tradition of the Egyptian Church. One hundred young adults came from Europe, North America, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Algeria and Iraq; they were welcomed by a hundred young Copts from Cairo, Alexandria and Upper Egypt.
Our attention was drawn in particular to the heritage of the martyrs of the Coptic Church as well as to its monastic roots, which are a constant call to simplicity of life. My brothers and I were warmly welcomed by Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
On our return from Africa, we said to ourselves: people pay so little attention to the voice of those undergoing such grievous trials—whether they are far from us or nearby. It is as if their cry gets lost in the void. Hearing it through the media is not enough. How can we respond to it by our lives?
The following proposals, for the year 2018, are inspired in part by this question.
Read the 2018 Four Proposals from Taize HERE
- First proposal: Dig deeper into the wellsprings of joy
- Second proposal: Hear the cry of the most vulnerable
- Third proposal: Share trials and joys
- Fourth proposal: Among Christians, rejoice in the gifts of others