As part of my workshop in the French CVX Congress, I had the opportunity to participate in a Cercle de Silence in Cergy. Cercles de Silence is a movement which was started by Franciscans in Toulouse in 2007, as a form of silent, non-violent, protest against the injustices suffered by immigrants. Typically, the event is advertised in advance and the organisers set up a poster or banner in a public space, and a lantern. A circle of participants forms around the lantern, standing in complete silence, rain or shine, until the end of the event. Participants can be of any race or creed. Since its origin, the movement has spread to other French towns and to other European countries.
The first part of our workshop was a dialogue, held in a classroom of a public school in Cergy, with a young migrant who had escaped persecution in his country and arrived in France without a passport. He described the hardship and the uncertainty, but also how generous people had helped him materially and through legal advice, first to avoid immediate deportation, and then through the long road to refugee status. For the second part of our workshop we joined the Cercle de Silence which was taking place in the main square of Cergy.
When we arrived we joined the circle which had already been formed. Hung between the trees was a large banner - “With, or without documents, the stranger is a human being”. Coming across a number of people standing in a circle, in complete silence, in such a public space has quite an impact. Passers-by are intrigued. Some stop to ask, and there are volunteers outside the circle who can answer questions and give out leaflets. Some join the circle, even if only for a little while. Being in the circle with complete strangers, was a moving experience. Knowing nothing of each other, we were united in our solidarity.
Saviour Borg (R.O.D.S.)