Jean Vanier founded the L'Arche communities, and his work is known around the world. The original community is based in France and other houses are located in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Vanier is the author of numerous books, including Seeing Beyond Depression and Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus Through the Gospel of John. The reflections in this paperback come from his talks at a conference held in June 2004 entitled "Encountering the Other."
Healing and peace in this world can only come when the walls which separate people are torn down. We need to celebrate differences and become a lover of variety like the Creator. Opening to strangers and others who are different from us requires trust and a willingness to let go of certain ideas we have. Vanier refers to the model of Jesus who asks us to invite the poor, the blind, and the disabled when we have our next party. Vanier writes: "In the heart of Christ there is a yearning to bring people together to meet as friends."
The author shares his feeling of being drawn to serve people with disabilities and then reveals how fear serves as the main barrier blocking openness to others. He notes that although the longing for peace is very deep in our hearts, it does not come to fruition easily:
"We are in a world where we all want peace, and we all love peace. But the question will always be 'Are we prepared to work for it?' And to work for it can mean to put one's life in danger. It can mean to cross over barriers where one is not always understood or respected. Cross over the frontiers to meet the other, to encounter the other, to find the strength to listen to the other."
Vanier concludes with his thoughts of the art of listening, the long process of forgiveness, the joy of celebrating differences, and the challenge of reconciliation and change.