Paris, France, December 2023
As winter creeps in, the day centre at le CEDRE is regularly full to capacity. At the last session of the year, before the centre closes for 10 days, the whole place buzzed with new volunteers, satsumas and chocolate, presents of knitted headbands, speeches in French and Arabic asking for World Peace with particular attention given to Palestine and Ukraine. As in a mirror image, several gifts were presented to The Community Table : white sage to burn and purify the atmosphere, a little glass box, a metal slipper...
There were long and difficult discussions around the table about the new Immigration Bill passed by Macron’s government, who, having been elected to block the extreme right Rassemblement Nationale, have now forced through a bill which could have been written by this party. A collective letter was written to Emmanuel Macron to protest against “injustice” and “radicality”, asking him to “save the values of the Republic.”
Meanwhile one man built a miniature world where humans, animals, flags and trees live in harmony. Another patiently went through the entire box of postcards, choosing those which represented his state of mind.
A very young man showed photos of himself doing acrobatic stunts in costume on a horse in his country. A game of Jenga prompted a discussion about how important it is to slow down the heartbeat and breathe.
As the CEDRE closed, we all realised we would meet only in the New Year. And the wishes and hopes for the New Year were concentrated around one word : Peace.
Words by Kate France & Naomi Press.