Dear President Hollande

This moving letter to the President of France was written by Sister Mai Nghiem, a French nun and Dharma Teacher in the Plum Village Tradition, currently residing at Deer Park Monastery in California. Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) has often taught us the practice of writing “love letters” to our political leaders at times of shock, turmoil and fear. Many of us remember his powerful letter to President George W. Bush in 2006.

You may be inspired by Thay and Sister Mai Nghiem’s example, to look deep in your heart and do the same.

Deer Park Monastery
2499 Melru Lane
Escondido
CA 92026
USA

Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l’Elysée
55, rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris
France

17th November, 2015

Dear Mr. President,

This morning four military planes crossed the sky over our mountains. They made me think of France. I have been in California for a year, but these past days my heart and thoughts go out unceasingly to my native country.

My thoughts also go out to you, Mr. President, father of a country in shock, who must, at this hour, cope with a painful and complex situation under extreme political and media-driven pressure which must cause you, no doubt, stress-filled nights without rest.

Thank you for accepting this difficult task to be captain of the ship and to do it with a great sense of responsibility and necessity.

On the night of the 13th of November many of the members of my French family died. A part of me died with them. And from the vulnerability of my wounded heart, a voice makes itself heard: the echo of my cries in the sobs of my Syrian brothers and sisters, the echo of my despair in the calls for help of all the men and women who suffer, a little bit everywhere, from the loss of their loved ones, from the violence, the terror and the war.

I know from the depths of my wounded soul, today more than yesterday, that I wish no family to have to shed these bitter tears.

As Pope Francis said in his acclaimed speech to the US Congress, “Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”

Mr. President, we learn in history books that by humiliating the Germans in the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 we gave a springboard to Hitler in his rise to power, that the bombardment of Cambodia in 1973 served as fodder for the recruitment campaign of the Khmer Rouge, and how the war in Iraq became kindling for the fire of Islamist fanaticism.

In the current world crisis it is easy to get caught up in the urgency (though very real), the agitation and the frenzy around us.

May we all, while responding to the imperative need to protect the population, also take time to remember, to listen and to learn from history and from the memories of those who witnessed it;

May we all, in a world where the past may be brought back to life in a very real and poignant way (as in the recent movie “The Son of Saul”), honour through our responsible, intelligent and awakened actions the remembrance of so many who died and suffered, and not allow any chance that our children may have to re-live such trauma;

May we all together work to build a world where attentive and compassionate listening to the suffering endured by both sides prevails over the unnecessary escalation of violence that no one wishes for, where the desire for deep and genuine understanding triumphs over our prejudices, our fears and our thirst for vengeance or power;

So that together we may, as Gandhi said, not just keep ourselves from making the world blind, but also light a spark of life, of hope and of love in the eyes of its inhabitants.

Mr. President, I am confident that the history books and the generations to come will remember you as someone who knew how to bring quiet strength to a nation that so needed it in a chaos of fear and anger; as a shrewd captain who knew how to bring his ship into calm waters; as the wise and courageous commander of the guardians of real peace; as the shepherd who knew how to take care of his sheep beyond the borders of his fields.

For we all prefer the cheerful chirping of blackbirds to the screaming of missiles, the free and majestic flight of the hawk to the scrambling of jet fighters.

Please know, Mr. President, that in these somber hours you do not walk alone on this arduous path. The thoughts of support and courage of many go with you.

With all my gratitude and confidence,

Your child among others,

Sister Mai Nghiem

Just a simple monk!

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15 comments on “Dear President Hollande
  1. Linda K says:

    So personal and genuinely speaks to the heart…..Beautiful and thank you so very much????

    • Mirjam says:

      Thank you for your touching letter.

      It reminded me of a song written by a wonderful singer who touches beauty deeply.
      Especially in her songs about love.
      I am very thankful to her for bringing such beauty into the world.
      I would like to share this song, which is of course at its best with the music alongside with the lyrics. Her voice adds so much depth to it. It took my mind along a certain path, from thinking in terms of despair, towards a glimpse of the insight of interbeing. Maybe it is of some inspiration for others too.
      Sister Mai Nghiem, Thank you for inspiring with your letter, it is very moving to read about your love.

      Love, Mirjam

      Song: every soldier is a mother’s son by Heather Nova

      I keep a light in the window
      Dark band on my heart
      Some days are better than others
      Mostly I’m falling apart

      I keep his picture beside me
      I see the dream in his eyes
      I watch the light disappearing
      Into unsettled skies

      You say the world will be a better place
      After this war is won
      You say no sacrifice too great
      But every soldier is a mother’s son

      I know he can’t take the killing
      And how it messes with his soul
      I know the days are unending
      When you’re so far from home

      You say the world will be a better place
      After this war is won
      You say no sacrifice too great
      But every soldier is a mother’s son

      You say the world will be a better place
      After this war is won
      You say no sacrifice too great
      But every soldier is a mother’s son

      No war that can be won
      When every soldier is a mother’s son
      No war that can be won
      When every soldier is a mother’s son

      I keep a light in the window
      I keep a vigil inside
      I say a prayer for those mothers
      Across the enemy lines

      You say the world will be a better place
      After this war is won
      You say no sacrifice too great
      But every soldier is a mother’s son

      You say the world will be a better place
      After this war is won
      You say no sacrifice too great
      But every soldier is a mother’s son

      Every soldier is a mother’s son
      Every soldier is a mother’s son

  2. Irene Biffar says:

    Beautifully written, Sister!

  3. Jennifer Seitzer says:

    Dear Sister,
    Thank you for your insightful wisdom in reminding us to consider our past — in reminding us that often violent retaliation, in a subtle, paradoxical way, can serve to justify the heinous crimes rather than abating the conflict, and rather than fostering healthy grieving, healing, and peace. Your courage is a light to us all.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Dear Sister, Thank you for your deep practice. Your letter is a light in a dark world. May your letter water the seeds of understanding and love. Thank you.

  5. Emilia says:

    Thank you for expressing wishes of so many!
    I do hope peace and compassionate dialogue will be the future of mankind instead of war and hatred.
    I do wish all people would be able to look deply into their hearts and see that there can be no real happiness on Earth with a sigle creature suffering from terrorism and war.
    Breathing in I’m inviting peace into my heart, breathing out I see all people as my brothers and sisters.
    _()_

  6. True walk with spring says:

    I am translating your letter into Thai and hope to post it on Thai PV website soon. May the letter water the seeds of peace, love and compassion in the heart of all those who get to read it.

  7. Katharina says:

    Your letter touched my heart.

  8. Jenny Chan says:

    Dear Sr. Mai,

    Thank you for your deep teaching of loving speech.

    May the world be at peace.

    Breathe…..
    : ) Jenny (Lotus Pond Temple)

  9. Patty Cargille says:

    Mille mercis. Breathing in, breathing out.

  10. qssdrc says:

    May your letter help to bring clarity in this time of anger

  11. Evelyn Greenfield says:

    Thank You

  12. Franny says:

    Did you want “as the shepherd who know how to take care of his sheep beyond the borders of his fields.” to say “knew”?

      • Raphaëlle, Joyful light of the Heart says:

        Dearest Sister, I have just read your letter. I have been so sad at the events in Paris last Friday evening. I have family and close friends living in Paris and all of them have shown real compassion for the situation. It makes me even sadder when I hear that the response from the French government has been to respond with fighter jets.

        Thank you so much for your skilful letter. Thank you for your practice and the wonderful presence of the whole Plum Village community.