Visit from HE the French Ambassador to the Holy See, Florence Mangin

HE Ms Mangin was accompanied by Father Bernard Planche, the embassy’s ecclesiastical adviser, for a brief but intense visit. The talks focused mainly on the situation of our educational works in the Holy Land, but we were able to broaden our horizons to all the places where we are present in the Middle East.

The Consulate General of France in Jerusalem has long played a special role in protecting religious communities and institutions of French origin. The current climate of tension is a legitimate cause for concern, and it is in this context that the Ambassador is meeting with the congregations present in Rome that have works in the Holy Land.

We were able to draw up a fairly exhaustive picture of our presence and the difficulties currently being encountered in our schools in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Beit-Hanina and Bethlehem, as well as at Bethlehem University. We don’t know how long the crisis will last, but the impact is obvious, particularly the economic impact on families who are finding it harder and harder to pay school fees. In the District as a whole, which also includes Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, it is a real challenge for families to continue their studies. Another clear sign of the worsening situation in the region is that many young people see their future more securely abroad than in their own country…

Our schools are mainly French-speaking: several prepare students for the French baccalauréat, and with success rates that are all the more remarkable given that most of these students do not speak French at home. The interview was also an opportunity to recall how the presence of members of French diplomatic representations at academic or cultural events in our schools is always seen as a strong sign of support and encouragement.

Beyond teaching the French language, we are passing on a whole humanist tradition of openness, tolerance and fraternity. This dimension of education is all the more essential today: when young people of all faiths not only live together but forge genuine bonds of friendship, they give the lie to those who see us as irremediably condemned to confrontation. Sowing the seeds of peace in the generations of tomorrow’s Middle East through education is more urgent than ever.

Br. Joël Palud, fsc

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