Learning to Live With Differences: The Example of l’Arche

Open to Everyone
Free to Attend

Education Dialogue Charity 116 Hyde Road, Ardwick, MANCHESTER, M12 5AR

Frances Sleap

Frances Sleap

Author, Former Research Fellow at Dialogue Society

L’Arche, began in 1964 when Jean Vanier, an ex-naval officer and philosophy lecturer, decided to “do something” for people with intellectual disabilities. Inspired by faith he invited two men to leave the loneliness and frustration of a large institution and come to live with him in a house in Trosly-Breuil, near Paris. This little community grew and new communities grew up, first in France and then abroad. There are now 131 communities in more than 30 continents. People of different abilities, backgrounds and religions live, work learn and celebrate together, seeking to build communities that are sources of life and hope for all their members and for the wider community.

This paper will look at the challenge of difference in community life and at how l’Arche rises to this challenge. I will explore l’Arche’s approach to living with differences of intellectual ability and the understanding of the human person that informs this approach. I will then take a look at how the same principles are applied to living with religious difference in l’Arche communities, notably in Canada and India. As well as referring to personal experience I will draw on the writings of Jean Vanier and of other writers who have been involved with or intrigued by l’Arche.