Emmaus International

Through a series of interviews, Emmaus International would like to share its members' views on the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the movement worldwide. We asked Luis Tenderini, Emmaus International Board Member for the Americas region, to share his thoughts. We asked him about how Brazilians have reacted to Jair Bolsonaro's opposition to WHO advice, how the population has adapted to cope with the crisis, and about the impact of liberating education on young people’s ability to politically analyse events during this health crisis.


In Brazil, where your Emmaus group is based, President Jair Bolsonaro is going against the advice of the WHO and the recommended lockdown measures. What is the population’s reaction to this attitude which many believe is a political ploy?

The large majority of the population in Brazil is against the irresponsible attitude of the President, but at the same time many people resist a strict lockdown which the local authorities have imposed. Government aid is not reaching most of the population, because the bank system is collapsing, along with the public healthcare system, which can no longer provide the care required. The gradual increase in the number of cases and deaths is leading to a potential national tragedy, where the poor will be the most affected.

The Emmaus groups in Brazil are very involved in the social fabric of the communities where they work, primarily through their educational work. How are local people adapting and coping during this crisis period?

During times of crisis, social inequalities become even more apparent. The wealthiest social classes are respecting the lockdown the least, because their living conditions enable them to live without the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. And they are the people who support the President’s anti-lockdown stance the most. The working classes are trying to survive by promoting and benefitting from solidarity initiatives that are emerging in many places. The precarious situation of thousands of families is aggravated by the difficulties they face in receiving government aid.

The Emmaus groups in the Americas region, particularly yours in Recife, have been providing training and initiatives on education that liberates. To what extent does your work in this field help to raise the public’s awareness of the political challenges of this crisis?

In times of crisis, such as the global crisis we are facing, and more profoundly in Brazil, the awareness processes help young people to discover the structural causes of inequality. During the lockdown we have been forced to close our school activities. In our direct or virtual contact with the students we can see how their views mature and become more conscientious. Their participation in solidarity initiatives, which are being created everywhere, proves the effectiveness of the educational work.

Find all our "3 Questions to..." interviews below :
→ Poppy John Xavier, team coordinator at Kudumbam (India)
Beron Molantoa, Director of Emmaus Cordis (South Africa)
→ Carina Aaltonen, chair of Emmaus Europe