Emmaus International

Juan Melquiades is the director of Emmaus Piura in Peru, Chair of Emmaus Americas and Vice-chair of Emmaus International. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Manifesto, he spoke about the meaning of the Manifesto with regard to his responsibilities within his group and the Movement.

"My vision and my personal impression are related to the history of the reason for our existence today as a living community of work and service, called Águilas Emaús Piura, in the north of my country, Peru, South America.

We helped to improve housing and living conditions for poor families and we welcomed people passing through the city into our home. We were a family community which served the poorest. We didn't know that Emmaus even existed. In 1990 we read an articule in a magazine by Urracas Emmaus in Chile and we wrote to them to find out more about Emmaus. And that's how we first made contact with the Movement - and the first document that Emmaus International gave us was the Universal Manifesto.

The very first time we read the Manifesto we felt it represented a real, concrete proposal for how to live differently. If offered a different, alternative vision to the selfish consumerist system, which was already predominant in our society in Piura, pillaged and impoverished by private and state power groups, where the political classes were far-removed from the working classes.

Embracing a dignified life as a rule, living in peace and happily serving and sharing with the poorest, this is the whole philosophy of a revoluntionary and emancipatory life. And it is based on this law, immersed in our day-to-day lives, that we find ourselves living and working so that each man, each companion, each volunteer and each nation may live and claim their place in sharing under equal conditions. This is our goal, our challenge and our impetus to forge a fairer and more equal society. Up in the north of our country, surrounded by the sand of the desert, the blue of our sea, the happiness of our people and our shared hope, we absolutely believe that it is possible and this is what we are striving for.

The Universal Manifesto opened our hearts and minds to new experiences and the obligation to examine and analyse the reality in which we live, firstly through the practice of salvaging goods and materials which provided us with an economic means and at the same time caring for the environment. It is both necessary and of vital importance to use our means to take action to combat the causes of poverty. These values are instilled in me and I've spent over 25 years working with conviction and passion, contributing to my community, to the Movement and to society in the certainty that a new world is possible.

The Universal Manifesto is valid today and it is and should be a tool that drives us to keep living, working and fighting to improve the reality of our world today by using our words and our dignified, solidarity-based practices.

It is important to return to drink from this source, it is important not to let go of the social and political legacy of Abbé Pierre because today, more than ever, in a vertiginous world where the philosophy of "having" before "being" is accentuated, where financial capital takes priority over human beings, where the accumulation of wealth is presented to us as synonymous with happiness, where wars are planned and promoted in order to appropriate the natural resources of nations, where borders are closed to people yet happily opened to goods, it is both urgent and necessary for our Movement to raise the flag. To raise the flag for a dignified life lived in a community, of salvage work carried out with joy and inclusion, of organised and planned service together with the poorest, and above all of the fight against all forms of injustice that overwhelm and exclude people, whilst also destroying our planet.

It is vital for Emmaus groups to lay our thoughts and our commitments on the table alongside our daily work, without letting go of our mysticism and our values. We need to continue building alliances with people and organisations who also work to recreate a different way of life. It is vital and necessary to remain alert, attentive, enthusiastic and passionate, whilst keeping intact our essence and our Emmaus way of being.

The Universal Manifesto remains valid today by proposing, in its essence, this new way of viewing life from the perspective of happiness, dignity, community, work, service and fighting against the causes of poverty. It is our responsibility to cement this commitment in our daily work with the impoverished in society and it is entirely up to us to breathe life into the Universal Manifesto, or to leave it to gather dust on the shelves of our archives along with the things we have cast aside. Now is the moment to live, the moment to propose, the moment to make it real, the moment to fight."

20190523 202038 Juan Melquiades

Photo : ©Patrick Piro