Emmaus International

Emmanuel Siambo, Chair of Emmaus Solidarité Ouaga and member of Emmaus Burkina Faso. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Manifesto of the movement, he discussed to the importance of this founding text as the source of his commitment since the 1990s.

"I first came into contact with the Emmaus movement due to a chance meeting with Franco Bettoli, Chair of Emmaus International at the time, in 1990, when I was an official at the Ministry of Agriculture. He was directed to my department to ask for help to set up a project to support the population of a village community in Burkina Faso.

It wasn't until sometime later that I became aware of the scale of the movement, the organisation of the Emmaus communities and how they worked, through visits organised to groups in Europe: France, Italy, Germany and also Belgium.

It was also at that moment that I became aware of the movement’s Universal Manifesto and in particular our law"serve those who are less fortunate before yourself", "serve first those who suffer most". This sentence affected me deeply, as how could I put this into practice in a social, economic and political context where we, as the privileged, primarily seek to accumulate more fortune before thinking of others?

This law [of the Universal Manifesto] was one of the triggers for my commitment and involvement in contributing to the distruction of this logic of thinking of yourself before others. Combatting the causes of poverty...I knew already that this task would be long, but it is exhilerating.

In Burkina Faso, we’re working on this task in the context of high-cost of living, the adoption and implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed by the IMF and the World Bank as a solution for development, with numerous consequences: loss of jobs due to dismissal, staff cuts, closing of service companies. Very quickly the number of people in difficulty has increased, leading to the emergence of struggles for a revaluation of the human condition as well as better living conditions, supported by civil society organisations.

For this struggle to be effective, it is written in the Universal Manifesto that:" any other means to raise awareness and meet this challenge should also be used to ensure that those suffering most are served first, by sharing their troubles and struggles - whether public or private - until the cause of each ill is eliminated". For me, raising awareness is the determining factor for the success of the actions taken.

The discovery of the Emmaus movement gave me another opportunity to fight together with people in difficulty, for a better life, against the causes of suffering, but above all for access to fundamental rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations.

Unfortunately, this situation is still relevant in view of the difficult situation of access to these fundamental rights in the countries of our region, Africa, and this requires an alliance and consultations with other partners and social movements engaged in the same fight advocated by the Emmaus movement.

For all these reasons, I think that the Universal Manifesto of the Emmaus movement is still relevant. I've integrated it into my way of thinking, my conscience, and I try to live it on a daily basis. It puts people from all walks of life at the centre of our lives, of our struggles, without any exclusion. It advocates respect and dignity for all beings, and collective work for solidarity. "

20190524 Palais federal Berne Emmanuel Siambo

Photo : ©Patrick Piro