Home' Aurora : Aurora June 2011 Contents 15
www.mn.catholic.org.au | Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle |
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120 Mount Pleasant Street, Maitland
T: 1300 588 494 F: 1300 030 498
THE SPONTANEOUS OUTPOURING of
sympathy and generosity in the wake
of the Australian floods, cyclones and
bushfires, the earthquake in Christchurch
and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan
has tapped into our traditional and much
valued concept of "mateship." We like to
think of ourselves as always ready to "lend
a hand," to be on the lookout for those
down on their luck.
In September last year, whilst overseas, I
was confronted by a scenario that called
this belief into question.
Walking along the Champs Elysées I almost
stumbled into a figure sprawled across
the pavement. It was a shabbily dressed
woman rattling a few coins in an old
take-away coffee cup. She was pleading
in French, "S il vous plait Madame quelque
chose pour mes enfants?" "Please Madam,
something for my children?"
I was shocked. As I regained my balance
I looked up and noted similar figures
strategically positioned along the entire
length of the Champs Elysées. Beside me
my brother urged, "Keep walking. Do not
make eye contact."
We walked on and I noticed small clusters
of men also positioned along the Champs
Elysées selling trinkets and keeping
a protective eye on the women. They
During my stay in France there was much
debate in the media about proposed
legislation to deport the gypsies. They were
"a threat to stability", secretive, tax avoiders
and illegal. President Sarkozy stated that
"the minority posed security problems".
Public opinion seemed to support the
The gypsies, mainly from Eastern Europe,
are European Union citizens and can,
therefore, enter France without a visa.
However, if they want to stay for more
than three months they must have the
means to support themselves and have a
work permit which is not easily obtained.
Consequently the gypsies move into the
streets to beg.
I spent an afternoon at the Memorial de
la Shoah -- the Holocaust Memorial in
Paris. As I read through the World War II
documents my hair stood on end. There
confronting me in almost the same
vocabulary currently being used in the
political debate about the deportation of
gypsies were the reasons why the Jews
needed to be isolated and later persecuted.
According to the documents Jews were
secretive, and "a threat to stability".
Did people all those years ago avoid the
Jews, refuse to make eye contact, shun
them, walk on, harden their hearts?
Was history repeating itself in modern
day France? Like the Jews, were
gypsies scapegoats for the ills of our
If I trawled through Australian media
reports on asylum seekers, the "boat
people", would I find the same emotive and
irrational comments. Would these people
be called secretive and a threat to our
society? Would we shun these people? Or,
as Australians so often do, would we give
them a helping hand and a fair go?
Again I think of my first encounter with
the gypsy woman on the Champs Elysées.
For a fleeting moment I had hesitated,
conditioned and determined to respond to
the woman's plea. But then...was it fear,
prejudice or an intellectual rationale that
induced me to keep walking, to avoid eye
contact, to harden my heart?
I may have left the begging gypsies in
Europe but the plea of the shabbily
dressed woman continues to haunt me:
"S il vous plait Madame quelque chose pour
"Please Madam something for
"S'il vous plait Madame quelque
chose pour mes enfants?"
"Please Madam, something for my children?"
Sister Carmel Hanson reflects on the Australian notion of mateship.
honed over the past seven years
and delivers relevant talks, personal
testimonies and opportunity for small
group discussion. Most importantly, it
provides the space and environment
for men to reflect.
This retreat will provide a perfect
opportunity for Catholic men to connect
with their brothers across the Diocese.
Talk to men you know in the parish;
ask brothers-in-law, sons, fathers,
friends and come as a group - the
'menALIVE' weekends are life changing
experiences. For more information on
'menALIVE' see www.menalive.org.au
To register P Greg Walker 4955 0254
or Fr. Tony Brady 4955 9575 or
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