WHERE DOES THE NAME LATASTE COME FROM?
Jean-Joseph Lataste was born in Cadillac, Gironde on September 5th, 1832 and died on March 10th, 1869. He was a Dominican priest, founder of “Soeurs dominicaines de Béthanie”. He was declared venerable on June 1st, 2007 by the Pope Benoît XVI and was beatified on June 3rd, 2012.
During his first year of ministry, Father Lataste oversaw many church services and sermons for the incarcerated. One of them marked his life forever: the one administering to the Cadillac women prisoners in September 1864. By spending time with these women sentenced to heavy prison sentences, he discovered that in the eyes of men and in their own eyes they were sentenced for life. Back in these days, it was impossible to imagine rehabilitation for these people, as society had no room for them. Some establishments existed for women coming out of jail, but even if they could pray and be welcomed, they didn’t have the possibility to become religious.
Father Lataste wished that there would be a merger between the religious and the reconciled women without considering the women’s past. The founding principle was to have no distinction between the religious and the reconciled women. Without ever denying the reasons that sent these women to prison and the justice’s decisions, Father Lataste had never ceased to believe in them and in their possible rehabilitation provided by the desire to change their lives.
What is the link between Cambodia and the association AEC-Foyer Lataste’s project, which straight from the start, claimed its dimension of being non-denominational and non-political?
Since the momentum given by Father Lataste, the AEC-Foyer Lataste’s action is inspired by, whatever the situation, fundamentals values: the unique and irreplaceable value of each human being, the person’s dignity, regardless of their origins, their situation, their history, their physical, psychological and/or social state, everyone’s fundamental liberty, fraternity and solidarity. Beyond the rehabilitation work and the foundation of the Bethanie’s congregation, Father Lataste invites us to still believe that everything is possible, that a person is bigger than some of the actions in their life. No one is condemned to undergo the weight of their history if hope, charity, and the collective force around a shared educational project is part of their life.
Cambodia has gone through terrible years, where to survive the Khmer Rouge genocide, people had to lie and denounce their neighbor. King Sihanouk had the intuition that his country could only be reborn by going through a national reconciliation. It wasn’t a matter of denying the weight of history, nor the responsibility of those who committed these actions. It was about building and rebuilding lives on a new project full of promise, where everyone would have their place. The first Foyer Lataste was created by this intuition, where everyone could aspire to a better life, regardless of their origin or their personal history, beyond their past life which was mostly chaotic. This is how, since the beginning of the 90’s, the Foyer welcomed very young war orphans, children from poor families, young demobilized soldiers from different military factions across north-west Cambodia, the first Cambodian managers who had everything against them, all welcomed around a common project: to have access to a better life through educational programs and access to their own culture in a family-like framework, where all of them could become the master of their own life.
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