Across the Emmaus International movement, solidarity is a core part of the ethos. The Emmaus movement itself began with a single act of solidarity.
One night, a man named Georges Legay was brought to Emmaus founder, Abbé Pierre, after a failed suicide attempt. Georges had recently been released from prison and had nowhere to go. He turned to Abbé Pierre for help. Instead, Abbé Pierre offered him the opposite of charity, asking Georges to “help him help others,” by building accommodation for homeless families.
“That was the birth of the Emmaus movement. If that moment were ever forgotten, Emmaus would cease to be. Above all else Emmaus is telling someone who feels unwanted or useless, ‘I have nothing to give you but my friendship and my plea to share in my efforts so that together we can save others. The only true gift is to help another to be able to become a giver in their turn thus creating a wonderful chain, without limits, of sharing and initiation in the reality of love.’”
When Emmaus Cambridge opened in the UK, as the first Emmaus community in the country, Abbé Pierre gifted £50,000 to its founders. It was his express wish that this gift be given to another community when Cambridge could afford it. That initial £50,000 was transferred to Emmaus Coventry in 2001 and has continued to be recycled ever since in the form of solidarity grants.
Emmaus is part of an international movement, with over 400 groups, located in over 40 countries, working every day to help the most excluded and tackle the causes of poverty.
Every Emmaus organisation across the world takes part in international solidarity actions to benefit the wider movement. This includes sharing resources between different Emmaus groups such as items and knowledge, volunteer opportunities to learn from one and other, and sharing funds to help new Emmaus groups develop their activities.
“In the face of human suffering, set yourself not only to providing immediate relief, but to wiping out its causes.”
– Abbe Pierre, 1954
Through solidarity, we give immediate help to people who are in crisis. Whether it’s handing out warm meals at a soup kitchen, raising funds for a local foodbank, or donating to the international solidarity funds to help people experiencing poverty. Each of these acts provides immediate support to people when they are most in need.
But the Emmaus movement also endeavours to make lasting change for everyone by fighting to change the systems that have pushed people to crisis point. Solidarity and activism go hand in hand.
In its report ‘Emmaus: Our Voices,’ Emmaus International highlights that poverty isn’t an abstract idea. It is an everyday reality for many people all over the world. Behind the headlines are real people who are being deprived of some of their most basic human rights. But poverty isn’t an inevitable part of life. It is the result of political decisions that impact on all aspects of daily life – from a lack of investment in vital public services, to legal systems that favour big companies over individual workers. Fighting poverty means transforming the system that creates it.
Across the world, Emmaus fights to create a just and equal society in which we protect and look after everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. Social activism is a crucial part of this, working to ensure everyone has access to food, water, healthcare, education, housing and all basic human rights.
Solidarity and social activism are fundamental to the Emmaus movement, since they show that together we can make a difference. By overcoming our differences and recognising that we are one, human family, we can work for global justice, peace, and equality for everyone.
Find out more about the campaigns that Emmaus UK is involved in.
Leon spent his first ever trip abroad volunteering in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Helen recently volunteered for two weeks to help at an Emmaus community in Germany.
In March 2023, Emmaus Colchester held a Solidarity Sale to raise funds for Türkiye and Syria.
Emmaus Cambridge is involved in lots of international solidarity work including support for Emmaus Satu Mare in Romania.