Adonis Diaries

A Priest Amidst “Les Loubards”

Posted on: October 25, 2008

A Priest Amidst “Les Loubards” (July 22, 2004)


It is a testimony of a French priest who lived in the 19th district of Paris.

It is a district renowned for its high density of young delinquents, starting at age ten.

Almost forty percent of that wretched youth is of North African descents:

Algerians and Moroccans kids abandoned by their parents to the streets.

In certain quarters of Paris adolescents walk in bands.

The band is actually the real family for its members:

Even after marriage, the visits of a member have priorities over family’s prerequisites.

They help each others and take care of the worst case members.

They wear tattoos of the children of the downcasts.

Each gang has its breathing domain that other gangs do not trespass.

They refuse to talk about their folks to strangers.

It takes time to open up enough, even for a friend of theirs, to talk about their folks.

They are generally traditional: 

They ask for formal, sophisticated and religious ceremonies, 

When they marry and for baptizing their children.

It is a way to seek values and roots in formal ceremonies.


A few replies of these delinquents may shed a better idea of their family’s problems.

One gang member found between two trash cans characterized the situation as:

“At least these trash cans don’t shout and know how to shut up”.

Six half brothers from six different fathers relentlessly compared their genes 

To discover a common denominators in their characteristics.

Living quarters with no widows, or windows facing walls, 

Are good incentives for taking to the streets.

Alcoholic parents with, usually, a pattern of uninteresting jobs, long work hours,

Several hours spent for transport to work do not leave much time to care for kids. 

Kids stay late at night around clubs, pubs and drinking places 

Until their parents are soundly asleep: 

They try to skip the regular physical violence and verbal abuses and hurts.

Kids would vanish for months, come in, and open the refrigerator,

Take a coka cola can and leave; no questions asked.


Guy Gilbert, the priest, lives in a room in the same locality of one gang.

Guy rides a motorcycle, a Honda 500, and wears the black leather dresses of the gangs.

He is assisted by three salaried persons who manage a permanent center.

Only full time and salaried educators can succeed in this time consuming task:

Once a gang member receives a genuine listening ear 

He invariably becomes a monster hoarder of time for any assistant. 


Guy was ordained in Algeria during the Algerian revolution in 1965.

He took care of a 12 years old who was forced by his parents

To eat the leftovers of their dog and from the same dish.

It took a whole year for the kid to start talking and communicating.


A Priest Amidst “Les Loubards” (Continue 2, July 22, 2004)


In this book, the author describes succinctly and directly about the streets,

The violence, the police, the court trials, the prisons, 

The families that welcome some of these guys, 

How some of these families changed for the better after adopting a member,

How they had to relocate so that they could welcome the visits of the gang’s members,

The vacations of these groups of delinquents, around 130 boys and 20 girls,

The kind of work they prefer and how he goes about to helping them find jobs,

The professional educators, the deaths of some of these guys

And the approaches he had to take in order to be accepted by the gangs as one of them.


Guy spent at first a lot of time in metros, the place of choice for the gathering of the guys.

He patiently studied their slang, their behaviors, their attitudes and movements. 

These gangs have the instincts of the savages:  they appreciate brute force,

They have sharp feelings about how they are perceived and they can’t read or write.

Their vocabulary is restricted to about 400 words at most.

Guy had to physically fight a leader of a gang to be inducted as one of theirs.

He received many blows from newcomers and outside gang leaders.

Guy refused to take contributions after Sunday Masses from the parishioners

Because the guys sensed that the money was not meant for their cause.

I would have asked the parishioners to drop by the permanent center 

For any monetary contributions.

Once people start befriending the gang members and listening to them,

Hardly any misdemeanors occur in the cooperating neighborhood.


Getting together to sending letters and post cards to the imprisoned guys is a major task.  

Letters relieve the loneliness of the prisoners 

And strengthen the links of solidarity and loyalty among the gang members.

Prisoners would refer other lonelier prisoners to receiving post cards.

Selecting committees for welcoming the discharged prisoners was taken seriously.

Fancy dinners with plenty of booze were meant for the released prisoner 

To regain a taste for life.

Vacations in winters and summers are joyously welcomed.

Trips to Morocco, the snow or at the provinces are expected; as long it is outside Paris.

The gang members hop in the old van and truck and off they go.

Most of them never saw the snow:

“When you see this glorious nature, your outlook to life changes somehow” said a guy.

In the Provence, they remodeled and rebuilt an old house on a farm.

A leader of the gang made it a habit to kick doors open; 

He was disappointed to find no doors in the house.

By the end of the three month-vacation, he installed doors.

He then warned the priest never to allow any member to kick his man-made doors.

Wells were cleaned from three generations of waste.

Windows were refurbished and a new roof installed.

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October 2008

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