Compassion and Solidarity: Les Miserables and the Plight of Syrian Refugees
Compassion and Solidarity: Les Miserables and the Plight of Syrian Refugees
By Louis Michel / heterodoxtribune.com
Nov 19, 2015

NOV 19- President Francois Hollande of France announced yesterday that his country will continue to honor its commitment to settle 30,000 refugees over the next two years. This is in stark contrast to the bigoted and racist responses from various U.S. Governors and GOP presidential candidates, many of which have called for Nazi era registration ID cards for Muslims and the closing of mosques, effectively torching the First Amendment on the spot.

Navigating through all of the hate and ignorance towards the millions of people that are fleeing war can be depressing. In this moment it seems appropriate to invoke some lessons from the literary masterpiece that is France's own, Les Miserables. 

At the beginning of the book the main noble peasant, Jean Valjean, is leaving the galleys after spending 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's seven children. He spends 5 for theft and the rest for repeated escape attempts.

Jean Valjean

 

After many miles of traveling on foot seeking refuge he is taken in by the gracious Monsieur Myriel, the Bishop of Dinge. What happens next is one of the most beautiful acts of compassion and goodwill in all of literary history:

The bishop, who was sitting beside him, touched his hand gently and said, "You didn't have to tell me who you are. This is not my house; it is Christ's. It does not ask any guest his name but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering; you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And don't thank me; don't tell me that I am taking you into my house. This is the home of no man, except the one who needs a refuge. I tell you, a traveler, you are more at home here than I; whatever is here is yours. Why would I have to know your name? Besides, before you told me I knew... your name is my brother."

One would like to think that somewhere deep in the French spirit and the spirit of the world the words of Victor Hugo continue to reverberate from the past and continue to have a lasting effect on the way we treat one another. Whether we have read this book or not; whether we live in the West or the Middle East or South Asia, our humanity shines brightest when we show compassion and solidarity in the darkest of times. 

Photo: Frontispiece of Les Miserables via archive.org

Reading of this section available here at Awesome Stories 

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad71,759 views today ·
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action7,605 views today ·
I Promise, It's Not Lame to Ask a Woman for Permission
Dave Booda6,073 views today ·
On the Wildness of Children: The Revolution Will Not Take Place In The Classroom
Carol Black4,508 views today ·
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran3,667 views today ·
John Pilger on ISIS: Only When We See the War Criminals In Our Midst Will the Blood Begin to Dry
John Pilger2,893 views today ·
Paramedic's Response to "Burger Flippers" Making an Equal $15/Hour is Beautiful
Craig Carilli2,020 views today ·
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley818 views today ·
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga665 views today ·
Load More
What's Next
Why Our Conversations About Paris Have Been Broken From the Start
Zoe Samudzi
The Oneness Is the Greatest - #SanctumBristol
E Mizon
The Tale of the Fortune Hunters: Powerful Spoken Word about the Syrian Refugee Crisis
4 min
Like us on Facebook?
Compassion and Solidarity: Les Miserables and the Plight of Syrian Refugees