Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homage to Abel Chennouf

One of the soldiers killed in Montauban was neither Arab, nor Muslim, but Kabyle and Catholic. A reader sent the following homily delivered by the chaplain of the 17th RGP, Christian Venard, at the funeral services for corporal Abel Chennouf. Read the original French text at Riposte-Catholique.

Abel, my parachutist comrade, my brother, one week ago, to the day and almost to the hour, I held your hand, still warm from the life that an assassin had just taken from you. I held your hand and prayed for you, thinking about your mother and commending you to the heavenly mother, the Virgin Mary. I did not yet know Caroline, but if I had, I would have spoken for her also, and for the baby you are expecting. Then I leaned over your comrade Mohamed Legouad that the remarkable emergency medical teams were keeping alive. Finally, I witnessed the departure for the hospital of Loïc Liber, who at this very moment is fighting for his life, surrounded by his mother and father. What suffering! What incomprehension! But also, what solidarity, support, homages and, for us Christians, faith (as the bishop reminded us yesterday in Montauban cathedral) and hope, despite all!

Two thousand seven hundred years ago, in Rome, in the heart of the forum, symbol and center of life of the city, a chasm opened up. The oracle who was consulted issued this response: to close up this chasm, Rome had to throw into it what was most precious to her. Everyone was still wondering what could be the most precious thing, when a young horseman, a young soldier, Curtius, threw himself and his horse into the chasm which immediately closed up. Yes, the most precious thing Rome had was a young soldier, defender of the city.

The terrorist criminal who perpetrated the actions that cost you your life, Abel, attempted to open a chasm. The price to pay to close it is of course infinitely too dear; but, my friend Abel, you have become, like Curtius, a symbol of what our country, France, possesses that is most precious. And from now on, that is how you appear to us: a young corporal parachutist, who died for France, in a terrorist attack that sought to bring down our Fatherland.

Abel, I want to go even further. It's because you were wearing the French uniform, because you were proud of your red beret, that this criminal targeted you. What this murderer could not know is all that you represent today for our country. Born into a family both Alsatian (with all that this region conjures up of suffering linked to two world conflicts) and Kabyle (how can we not evoke the painful events in Algeria), your family chose France with (and I repeat the very words of you dear father), with all her traditions, including her most profound roots which are Christian. How could we not see, my friend Abel, in such an accumulation of symbols, what we have that is most precious, this capacity that our French Fatherland possesses to take into her bosom all those who want to become her children.

At the moment when we lay you in the earth, in this earth formed by the bones of our fathers (that too is the Fatherland), Abel, with all your family, your friends, your comrade parachutists, I pledge that we will support Caroline and your child. That we will be present by their side. Now, it is to God that we commend you, through the Catholic rites that accompany our deceased. We know that you live beside the Father. You have rejoined Jesus, this God who became Man, this innocent who died because of the evil and the violence that too often inhabit the hearts of men. Your sacrifice is enveloped in that of the Christ Jesus. Finding you last Thursday, lying on the ground of Montauban, taking your hand and seeing that blood so red and so pure flow from your wounds, I commended to the Lord of Life, this life that was flowing out of you. And if no tear fell from my eyes, like so many of your comrades, it was my heart that cried over all violence done to innocents on this poor earth. And it was to the Innocent One who shed his Blood to reconcile us with his Father, who shed his own Blood as ransom for all violence, that I commended your beautiful soul.

Abel, French of Alsatian and Kabyle origin, Catholic by choice, parachutist in the service of France, may our great patron saint, Saint Michael the Archangel welcome you and lead you to the bosom of the Father, with the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thanks to zazie.

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At March 27, 2012 11:20 AM, Blogger Jewel said...

Here is a good read, full of good news and hope for the maghreb population.

At March 27, 2012 4:01 PM, Blogger Jewel said...

Abel sounded like a beautiful human. Why is it that evil seeks out such beauty to despoil it?

At March 27, 2012 7:20 PM, Blogger tiberge said...

@ Jewel,

And he was soon to be a father. How many times have we heard of a cop or a soldier with a young wife expecting a child, who is killed in the line of duty? They are always the most decent ones (at least it seems that way).

Sarkozy made a goof about the origins of the three soldiers killed. I'll try to post it. I think he said that two of them were Muslims by their "appearance" - a real no-no in the world of anti-racism.

At March 27, 2012 8:02 PM, Blogger Jewel said...

@tiberge. That is even more painful for his family. I know from personal experience how losing a parent at a young age can be like a mill-stone around my neck. When my mother died after giving birth to my little sister, our whole family never got over it, but especially my youngest sister who never knew her mother.

At March 27, 2012 9:24 PM, Blogger tiberge said...

@ Jewel

And a reminder that rabbi Sandler who was killed had two children who died with him. I cannot begin to imagine what his wife must be going through. Many Jewish people come to expect this, especially if they live in a dangerous area such as Israel. I'm sorry they thought Toulouse was safe. I've been going back over some previous posts - there has been much violence. The Algerian flag was raised before the City Hall after a soccer match, and more recently a street was renamed in "honor" of a tragic event in Algeria where hundreds of Frenchmen were murdered brutally, while De Gaulle watched. That's another story - the French presence in Algeria was really a "reconquista", a return to Christianity after the Islamic conquest, but of course, the French learned a terrible lesson - stay out of Muslim lands. I feel, from what I have read, that French North Africa was not only civilized, but very modern and up to date. I heard that after the Algerian War, when the Europeans had to flee and return to France, they found it backward compared to French Algeria. And did the French ever love that land!

(Sorry to go on) but I have also heard that some inhabitants of North Africa insist they are descendents of the Romans who had conquered the entire area we call the Maghreb. Then came Islam. Then came the French. Then came the Algerian War. Now we have decaying Christian churches and cemeteries. But I just don't feel the story is over.

At March 28, 2012 5:45 AM, Blogger Jewel said...

Sorrows upon endless sorrows, and only more to come, I fear. I will have to study the history of Algeria, because you've whetted my desire to know.
I was translating the vital documents of a couple from France. They came from Rhône-Alpes. The wife was a professor at the Institute for Agriculture and Food Industries, and her husband is a corporate officer for one of the many food industries that has American branches.
When offered the chance to live in America, they jumped at it. They cited the stagnant economy, the over-regulation, the tax burdens and the bureaucracies they had to deal with just to make repairs on their home...something I've heard from expat Americans in London as well.
It is tragic for France when their best and brightest flee, and leave behind the immigrants. Who will replace the French if they don't replace themselves?
In just the last two years, alone, I have met at least four or five French families, all highly educated people, who are living in Lancaster. The love France, but they are sad to have to leave just in order to have a better life.

At March 28, 2012 6:42 AM, Blogger tiberge said...

@ Jewel

There are many websites in French on Algeria and the aftermath of the war. I don't know if there are any sites in English on this topic, but some information must be available. I will try, one of these days to assemble a list of websites in French. You seem to know French. The photos at these websites are horrific.

I'm very interested in your French acquaintances. I'm surprised and sorry they left France, and hope they can return some day. I shouldn't be surprised because there has been a brain drain for years, but still, 4 or 5 families in Lancaster is a lot.

They may be better off here for now. I will try to do a post tomorrow on the possibility of future violence. It seems the suburbs around Paris are boiling, people are saying the country is on the verge of civil war, Merah is a hero in Seine-Saint-Denis, just as Trayvon is a hero to black America.

Do your French acquaintances have children? If so, have they found adequate schools for them? I always ask about schools, because there are so few left. Possibly there are Catholic, or Quaker schools? (The Quakers are wonderful in some ways, but very liberal)

At March 28, 2012 7:51 PM, Blogger Jewel said...

Tiberge, they are upscale folks, living in posh neighborhoods in Manheim Township, which has the highest ratings of any public school system both in Lancaster County and in PA. There are also some excellent private schools. I started noticing about 10 years ago that there were French folks moving to Lancaster county. The first family came from French Switzerland, and some from Belgium, but a few others from different regions in France. One woman my husband painted for had a kind of German accent, and she is from Alsace-Lorraine.
They all live not far from us, and I consider them an asset.
I am worried that the banlieus and ZUS's will turn into bloody war zones. It is building up.
I think that we are going to see it here, as well, which has me worried, too. I am going to try to find out more about these families. They are some fine and wonderful folks.

At March 29, 2012 7:09 AM, Blogger DP111 said...

Its sad what happened in Toulouse, but this a civilisational war, and anyone of us is likely to be a victim.

So its better if we to the next stage of the war - a full war, when the sides are properly defined and delineated.


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