I sent a donation off today to the L’Arche Foundation. I’ve been reading a lot about the group and its Canadian founder, Jean Vanier, in The Globe and Mail newspaper, which endorsed Vanier as a deserving candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. And that he is.
L’Arche was founded in 1964 when Vanier — concerned about the institutionalization and isolation of people with developmental disabilities — created a home for himself and two friends, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, both of whom were intellectually disabled. He had no idea at the time that this gesture would mushroom into a worldwide movement called L’Arche.
“L’Arche” is French for “the ark” (as in Noah’s watercraft). Today, there are over 130 L’Arche communities in 34 countries on six continents. These communities are integrated into local neighbourhoods and offer family-like homes for people with developmental disabilities and the volunteers and staff who assist them
Vanier is probably best known in Canada for his bestselling collection of essays, Becoming Human. At age 13, during the Second World War, Vanier left Quebec City to join Britain’s Royal Navy. Although he began his adult life believing it was his duty to participate in war, Jean Vanier has devoted most of his life to learning about and building peace.
On the L’Arche website, he suggests that if we are continually confronted by a world of crisis, violence, fear, and abuse, it is because we do not understand what it actually means to be human:
“The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” writes Vanier. “Even if you cannot speak, even if you cannot walk, even if you’ve been abandoned, you have a gift to give.”
Check out the L’Arche extrARTordinary virtual gallery, an art project to honour people living with intellectual disabilities. Peace be with you all ….
P.S. “If a billion people were thinking about peace, there would be peace in our world.” — John Lennon