The Hague Law Blog is not entirely about law this week—I am traveling for two different conferences, and taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of different lands.
This week, I finally got to visit the fourth largest French-speaking city in the world (sorry, Marseille and Lyon—you don’t even crack the top ten—African cities take the #2, #3, and the rest of the top ten spots after Montréal).
In college, I majored in French, in large part because I lived in Belgium for three years as a kid (Army Brats unite!) and gained a curiosity about languages very early. The entire province of Quebec was always a curiosity, and Montréal even more so, because they were right next door to my homeland, and offered a taste of French life without having to leave the continent. My expectations of this place were exceeded by leaps and bounds—within mere hours of our arrival.
On the Metro Sunday afternoon, I heard no less than seven different languages spoken within earshot at the same time. And that wasn’t the most impactful moment of the day I shared with my wife… as we left the Oratory of St. Joseph, I was stunned by a trio of Sikh men, turbans and all, entering a Roman Catholic church for no reason but to behold the grandeur of an incredibly spiritual and holy place. They were quiet, and respectful, and reverent, and behaved exactly as I would have expected from people of faith—any faith. It really warmed my heart to have a long-held belief vindicated: it doesn’t matter what philosophy a person espouses. As long as we respect each other, humanity is on the right track.
As Peggy and I walked outside to descend the hill and return to our hotel,* we passed several women, ascending the steps to the Basilica on their knees. That they were ascending on their knees wasn’t the fact that struck me—I’ve been to Rome; I’ve watched pilgrimages happen—what struck me was that they were from India. Praying in Hindi as they took each step, knee by knee.
If only I had that kind of faith. If only I had that kind of dedication and fervent knowledge.
Peggy and I continued our descent hand in hand, both smiling, and not saying a word.
Professionally, the trip has been productive. Personally, it’s been nothing short of wonderful. The biggest reason? The people of Montréal are warm, welcoming, and (above all) they embrace other human beings no matter their origin. That tends to restore my faith in the world.
Merci, Montréal. T’es belle.
* Even our hotel was a curiosity. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth… famous for this little event, upstairs in Suite 1742.