Although the media played an important role in building Abbé Pierre’s reputation, it was also his unique personality and sincerity that earned him recognition, both in France and internationally.
Faced by the injustices he saw, he used his reputation to defend various causes around the world: housing for the homeless, welcoming undocumented persons, integration and work for all, fair trade, combatting hunger worldwide. Whenever humanity is trampled upon, humiliated, Abbé Pierre made these struggles his own and embraced them.
In September 1973, in the days following the military coup staged by General Pinochet in Chile, two community leaders from Las Urracas Emaús in Temuco, Carlos Melillán and Oscar Pregnán, were arrested and tortured. Emmaus International mobilised its members in many different countries to save their lives. Abbé Pierre went to Chile to meet the military authorities and managed to secure the two community leaders´ release in exchange for their lifelong exile.
In 1990, Abbé Pierre joined the campaign to reinstate democracy in Benin, launched by Emmaus International and other NGOs, at the request of Albert Tévoédjrè and Mgr Isidore de Souza, two Beninese friends of Emmaus and key players in restoring democracy in Benin after a 17-year dictatorship.
In 1992, when the Bosnian War broke out in Bosnia, Emmaus organised convoys to send supplies and equipment to refugees and victims right up to, and following, the end of the war in 1995.
Faced with the intensification of violence, Abbé Pierre issued an outcry of anger on 18 July 1995. With the backing of Emmaus International and Emmaus France, he sent an open letter to the president of France to call for Serbian military sites to be bombed and to condemn the United Nation´s inability to fulfil its peacekeeping commitment.
In August 1996, Abbé Pierre spent a week in Recife to celebrate the opening of the Emmaus community and 65 years since Dom Hélder Câmara, the city´s former archbishop, became a priest. Together they launched their Appeal to humans on 18 August. “Don’t forget the rule, the source of all peace, of all justice and of all solidarity: serving others, and making sure that we always serve first those who suffer most, the poorest…”