Jean Vanier on How the Disabled Help a Competitive Society

Founder of L’Arche Communities

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BUENOS AIRES, JULY 16, 2003 ( The disabled help modern people in the competitive world to discover what is really important in life, says Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities.

Vanier is in Argentina to found a home for the disabled. There are 120 L’Arche communities in Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East. Vanier is also the founder of the Faith and Light Movement.

«We live in a world where we are trapped by the search for success and the thirst for competition,» he explained in a conference Tuesday at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, attended by 1,300 people.

«This concern does not exist for the disabled,» he said. «What is important for them is relations, affection. It is difficult for ‘normal’ people to engage in relations and manage the anxiety and suffering that these naturally generate. To love is to become vulnerable.»

Vanier, son of a former general governor of Canada, abandoned his career in the Royal Navy to study for a doctorate in moral philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Paris and to teach at the University of Toronto. Moved by the sufferings of two mentally handicapped men, Vanier bought a house and without any experience invited them to share his home.

«I live with many people who do not speak,» he said. «And if they speak, often what they say is not clear.»

«We have to understand that they are living,» he added. «It is difficult to understand what people with disabilities are suffering, are living, are needing. In Faith and Light, and ‘L’Arche,’ we become experts in communication and in finding the way to understand one another mutually.»

L’Arche communities seek to be the ambit where love, acceptance and understanding are developed that welcomes people with disabilities and the volunteers who help them.

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