Emmaus International

Graziano Zoni, an important figure within the Emmaus movement in Italy and beyond, passed away recently. Patrick Atohoun, Chair of Emmaus International, shared his memories of Graziano's struggles and of him of a person.

How did you know Graziano?

I met Graziano when I was working for the archbishopric of Cotonou in the 1980s. As the Chair of the Mani Tese association Graziano knew Africa well. He met Abbé Pierre in Assise and they became close friends afterwards, later on he was an emissary of sorts for Abbé Pierre in Africa. It was thanks to Graziano that Abbé Pierre met with Monsignor de Souza in Benin and that Emmaus was relaunched in Africa in the 1990s.

How did he contribute towards the development of Emmaus across the globe?

Graziano was a member of the board and executive committee of Emmaus International from 1995-2000 and thus he participated in all discussions on the international level. He supported several African groups during the process to become members of the movement.  
He was a pioneer in terms of the sending of containers, a programme which enables the Emmaus groups in Europe to send containers full of materials to Africa and Latin America. Graziano had his own, unique vision of solidarity - he didn't like the idea of solidarity 'projects', as he saw this concept as prolonging a dependency of the 'beneficiary' on the 'financer'. He prefer to talk about 'initiatives' where all stakeholders have autonomy and are able work to the best of their ability.
Graziano was, above all, a person who trusted in mankind. No matter a person's culture or past he could always see the good in those who crossed his path. His opinion was that the excluded should not give up hope but should keep working in order to push mankind to do more.

What struggles did Graziano focus on?

His vision of 'living together' has always stayed with me - Graziano was a very calm, peaceful person and he didn't like discord. Everywhere he went he encouraged people to resolve their conflicts through discussion and negotiation.
Graziano was also committed to social justice - he encouraged the development of micro-credit initiatives within the Emmaus movement. He thought it was important to create a bigger role for micro-credit and to put more resources into such activities in order to help the most excluded develop income-generating activities and thus reclaim their rights.
Behind all of his initiatives there was a real political vision - he wrote in-depth articles in Emmaus Italy's magazine for several years.

What will you remember of him?

Graziano was a quiet man but he gave a lot to the movement and shared the movement's values wherever he went. He always had something constructive to say. I often admired how he would take action for the Emmaus movement and speak out on behalf of Emmaus.
I will never forget that Graziano was the person who encouraged me to put my name forward to be Chair of Emmaus International. He gave me advice and support during this journey, telling me that I had to show that Africa has values and skills to share and helping me see that as Chair I could bring these into the spotlight.


emmaus graziano zoni abbe pierre