President’s Letter | May 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

After about 2 months of forced absence at Paris-CDG I was able to visit the airport for a few hours and be of some assistance to a handful of passengers in transit and have a chat with some staff (most of them work maximum 4 days a month). But maybe the most unexpected conversation was with a group of 3 ‘inhabitants’ of the airport including a real friend. It was quite unexpected as most homeless people have found shelter in nearby hotels as almost every food supply have closed on the airport but another surprise was the content of the conversation between an ex-teacher and an artist and their friend (of whom I don’t know much). Each have a deep culture and spirituality and after some chit chatting about the situation we all face they asked: ‘’Pierre, why do we face such a pandemic, who sends it, is it some kind of punishment?’’

Each of us might be asking ourselves this kind of question and are certainly asked by others particularly in our role as chaplains and religious representatives. Depending on our tradition, our beliefs, our spirituality and our cultural background we would probably find a huge variety of answers amongst ourselves. A respectful conversation, if not a debate would certainly be enriching – I might start one on the topic on the Facebook IACAC COVID-19 Chaplains Support Group (private group I encourage you to join). It happens that the following day of that conversation I received a request from the French Protestant weekly newspaper “Réforme” to send a short comment on the 2nd chapter of the book of Job in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

From this passage and the whole book of Job one might find the confirmation of their own theological framework as well as one might find their principals challenged. My personal (re)discovery in writing this short article holds in 2 short points which can be found in verse 3 of the chapter: ‘’He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason’’ (NRSV). The first point is that God takes responsibility. It doesn’t really matter the reason for Job’s trial and suffering or it’s origin. It doesn’t really matter what role the accuser has in it, the Creator doesn’t run away. His servant’s integrity and faithfulness which he praises originates in his own own faithfulness and sovereignty. Job acknowledges it when he tells his wife ‘’Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?’

The second point lays in the last words of this same verse ‘’for no reason’’. There is no reason for Job’s suffering. The point the accuser, the satan, is trying to make is pointless it is actually so pointless that Job himself completely ignores his role in the matter. It’s not even a question for him. The matter for Job lies between him and his Creator. The absurdity of the situation is not even accessible to his wife or closest friends. It is something he has to deals with his God. But this ‘’no reason’’ has a double meaning here. Not only does it reveal the absurdity of the situation but also the motivation for Job faith and faithfulness. Job’s faith is also for no reason, for free. It’s not part of a deal. It’s not because he hopes to find protection, a blessing or even salvation. It simply is an integral part of his life and this gives him an incredible liberty as he complains and discusses with his friends and even argues with God.

For what it’s worth, the answer I gave to these three friends was that I didn’t care too much about the reasons why we were hurt by this terrible pandemic and that I was more interested in how we deal with it in the most human way possible and what we will do with it afterward. But when my faith is questioned through this tragedy I hope I can freely hold on to God’s faithfulness that he will not run away from his creation but take responsibility for it even if that means to argue with him and question him. But at the end, to receive with gratitude what he has to offer to me and to my fellow human brothers and sisters. Anyway this is what I wanted to share with you from my perspective but I would love to listen to what you have to say, how you are dealing with the situation and how your own spiritual and religious background helps you respond to the struggle people around you are facing.

Pierre de Mareuil

CDG Paris

Holy Days of the Month
Sharing and Celebrating Our Traditions

June 2020

7th June – Trinity Sunday – Christian

11th June – Corpus Christi – Christian

15th June – St Vladimir – Christian

16th June – Martyrdom of Guru Angad Dev – Sikh

23rd June- Puri Rath Yatra – Hindu

29th June – St Peter and St Paul – Christian