“We have come here to remember Laurent Barthélemy and to join him and his father, with the good perfume of our compassion, our love and our prayer, like a balm that spreads over the life and death of Laurent Barthélemy and over his whole family, over the sadness of all his friends in the Yopougon neighborhood”.

With these words full of tenderness, on Thursday, February 20, Valérie Régnier, from the Community of Sant’Egidio, said a prayer over the body of Laurent Barthélemy, the 14-year-old young Ivorian who “died of hope” while trying to reach Europe and who was found lifeless in the landing gear of a plane in Roissy on January 8.

Laurent Barhtélemy’s dream of going to France was a dream of peace, unity and looking to the future, like that of many African children. In these three days in Paris – organized with the help of the Paris City Hall and the Ivory Coast Embassy in France – Laurent’s father, Marius Ani – contemplating for the first time the beauty of the city – understood the dream that was his son’s.

He asked for forgiveness out loud for not having understood it before, for not having lived up to his responsibilities as a father and for not being able to do everything for his son.

“We must not be afraid of this dream”, Valérie Regnier said during the prayer that took place at the Legal Medical Institute of Paris, in the presence of the father, the Youth for Peace and many friends of the Community of Sant’Egidio.

“On the contrary, we have to value it and try to make the dream come true every day, patiently, everywhere. In Europe and in Africa. Everywhere, in all the peripheries, where we can build bridges of solidarity, humanity, fraternity and tear down the walls of selfishness, indifference and nationalism”.

Marius, who returned to Ivory Coast with his son’s body on Friday, will be received upon arrival by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Abidjan, which continues its work to promote and spread among young people a new culture of solidarity and a new future in Africa – through conferences in schools, especially in the Yopougon neighborhood, where Laurent lived, on the theme “Don’t waste your life”.

(Source: Community of Sant’Egidio; translation: Novena)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.