By Anne Dodd, Chair of Pax Christi UK
We were on holiday in France a few weeks ago and – only because of a chance remark by a friend in Oxford and then another in Limoges – changed our plans to include a brief visit to Agen and Oradour. We had never been to either place before but wanted to learn more about each place, and their connection to Pax Christi.
I knew something of the story of Marthe Dortel-Claudot (N.B. Marthe Dortel-Claudot was one of the co-founders of Pax Christi back in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II), but never knew that she had been living in Agen when Pax Christi began. Finding – with some difficulty – the church where she worshiped and where Pax Christi was born made her courage come alive for me.
There is a plaque inside the church – St. Hillaire – to mark the birth of Pax Christi, 70 years ago, in that church where Marthe, together with a war widow, the daughter of a deportee and one or two others – in the midst of the hatred, fear and violence of wartime France – took literally Jesus’ words ‘Love your enemies’ and began to pray publicly for the German people. For her, there was no Other, the Germans were her brothers and sisters in Christ. What breathtaking courage that must have taken…