Emmaus International

Interview with Patrick Atohoun, president of Emmaus International , by the Journal de la Saône et Loire. During his visit to the Chalon community (France), he presents Emmaus’ struggles on an international level.

Last Friday, Patrick Atohoun, president of Emmaus International since 2016, visited the Emmaus team in Chalon. This visit restored humanity and resilience.

Why are you here today in Chalon?

”I am here to remind all volunteers, companions and friends of Emmaus that 50 years ago, on 24th May 1969, in Bern, Switzerland, the universal manifesto of the Emmaus movement was signed. Abbé Pierre was a great traveller. He visited all of the continents and understood that extreme poverty was universal and that people all around the world must come together to address and fight all forms of precarity, everywhere, and that we should also speak out against injustice and poverty”.

What do you mean by “speak out against”?

“The Emmaus movement is non-religious: our common conviction for all of us, believers or non-believers, is that only love can create links between us and help us progress together. For Emmaus, speaking out means setting an example, demonstrating transparency and justice to economic and political decision-makers. We focus on three areas: social and environmental justice, ethical and solidarity-based economy and peace and freedom of movement, particularly regarding migrants.”

What specific actions can be taken?

“There are 350 Emmaus groups around the world which work in the areas of agri-food, health, education, family and children and other groups which share our values join us. We manage to pull thousands of people out of situations of precarity all around the world. Some of our projects have been taken over and continued by communities. The values we share have led to success: it works, there is another way. It is possible to prioritise humanity over economic interests and to make sure that the economy helps humanity rather than enslaving us.”

Interviewed by Jean-Marc MAZUE

Who is Patrick Atohoun?

Interview Atohoun emmaus international

Patrick Atohoun, aged 59 and of Beninese nationality, was elected president of Emmaus International in 2016. He has been working with Emmaus International for almost 30 years. Born on 11th February 1960 in Porto Novo, he enjoyed a peaceful childhood in Cotonou with his parents who were teachers. However, from the age of 20 he experienced extreme poverty: long journeys by bike or by donkey, lack of school books and healthcare infrastructure. Upon his election, Patrick Atohoun received the Abbé Pierre’s cane, a symbol of support and humility.

© photo : José Luis Iniesta