This past Monday, January 11, Alliance VITA kicked off its 11th Bioethics Conference on the theme “Our society in need of healing – How to act in favor of a culture of life?”

Thanks to the network of VITA volunteers engaged all over France and even abroad, there are nearly 112 cities throughout France and a dozen cities abroad which organize this event this year on local levels. More than 5,000 participants were able to follow the invited speakers’ conferences by videoconferencing, which were broadcast live from the packed Parisian hall.

The first evening was dedicated to the « force of personal action ». Encouraged by the experts’ presentations and national witnesses, each participant was invited to perform a distinctive reflection on his personal background, analyzing the events that marked his life which could be an incentive for a personal commitment.

During the general introduction for the training cycle, Alliance VITA’s president, François-Xavier Peres gave witness to his personal “bioethical background”. Then, the philosopher Martin Steffens, author of the “Little tract of joy: consent to life” (2013 Christian Humanism Prize) and of Life in Blue (2014), shared his philosophical reflections and his own experience on hardships and difficulties in life. He encouraged the participants to reflect on personal strengths that each could deploy when confronted with hardship.

The consultant, Anne Davigo Le Brun, specialized in personal accompaniment, then shared her expertise on bereavement by addressing some crucial questions: what stages does grieving lead us through? How can we support a grieving individual? What does bereavement teach us about ourselves, about our humanity? Can life forces emerge from bereavement?

The evening continued with the interview of the first « important founder” (there will be one each evening): Laurent de Cherisey, who created the Simon of Cyrene community – which are living areas shared between individuals with cerebral brain-damage and non-disabled people. Latest prizewinner of “France is committed”, a new title created by the presidential initiative to support innovative projects, Simon of Cyrene is above all a place which puts “the encounter” at the heart of its’ project for life. Laurent de Cherisey taught us that “the disabled person helps us take off our masks, to advance, not by fear of the other, but by fear of oneself. Very often, a disabled person’s greatest suffering is not his disability, but his loneliness.”

Tugdual Derville, Alliance VITA’s general deputy, finished the speeches by presenting the “figure of Moses, as a transmitter of life”. The history of the survival of this baby reminds us that protecting life is a right sealed in the inviolable conscience of every human being. The fact that he is successively saved by 5 women leads us to reflect on the maternal instinct of each one of them, to the anthropology of the gift that it reveals, and to see every woman as a carrier of life, of history and of transmission. The life and the mission of this figure which is part of the heritage of humanity reveals the importance of the “inner self”, the necessity to follow one’s conscience and to respond to the missions which are entrusted to us.

The participants also discovered and exchanged viewpoints on a poignant extract from the film “Human”. Alternating with times for reflection and activities, the evening was concluded with a round-table discussion where each of the 5 invited speakers in turn, could respond to questions from the interconnected cities.

>> Note: Join us Monday January 18, for the 2nd evening dedicated to “Humanitarian action towards the most