Mgr Benoist de Sinety, « Il faut que des voix s’élèvent » Accueil des migrants, Un appel au courage, Flammarion, 2018, 132 pages, 12 €

The author is the Vicar General of the Paris Archdiocese. In his book he invites us to have a realistic look, without compromising our principles, at the multicultural society of today which has always been multicultural and will be in the future. He wants to shake our passivity or lethargy regarding these new migrants who are flocking to our shores.

Bishop de Sinety invites us not to lock ourselves into a longing for the ‘good old days’, which never existed because our continent has always been a land of constant coalescing (p. 35). We should not fantasise about an illusory national unity (p. 79). We are faced with a national problem and we look to our leaders and/or experts to explain to us the high stakes involved. We have what he calls “forecasters” (crystal ball gazers) and very often these people offer us a narrative which constricts and shrivels our hearts instead of encouraging us to grow. They have neither vision nor values to present to us (p. 50). Most of their speeches are just electioneering promises based on opinion polls (p. 82).

Therefore, we need to break out from our society and its scandalously indecent overconsumption (p. 67). We should not create a pecking order between our ‘native’ poor whom we know and the migrants who come knocking at our doors (p. 65). Think of all the psychological back up we hasten to offer to those who have suffered some unusual event, and what do we do for those migrants who have endured a very frightening journey? (p. 109). What we do, in fact, is to subcontract this work to some humanitarian associations.

So, what should we be doing? The author asks us “to open our arms and to open our hearts.” He presents us with the orientations of the Catholic Church and especially, in four pages, the 21 suggestions of Pope Francis. He does not explain each of these suggestions as such, but his text could serve as a basis for group discussion or sharing in an organisation.

All through the book some fundamental convictions are stated. Here are some that we could remember:

“Solidarity takes precedence over the law” (p. 93)

“For an individual, the ethics of (personal) conviction must prevail” (p. 126).

“Public opinion cannot be superior to personal opinions” (p. 118)

This a book based on the French experience but it has a much wider application and will not leave anyone indifferent no matter what community they live in.

Gilles Mathorel, M.Afr.

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