The international dimension is a key part of Abbé Pierre’s legacy, as demonstrated by his many commitments. It was at the heart of his concerns in the wake of the Second World War, with one clear objective: Peace.

Emmaus: an international youth hostel

As an elected member of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP) since 1945, in October 1947 Abbé Pierre moved into a large run-down house in Neuilly-Plaisance, on the outskirts of Paris, with his secretary, Lucie Coutaz. At first he rented the property, but later purchased it using his parliamentary expenses allowance. In winter, its doors were open to worker-priests, seminarians, young and adult labour activists, scouts, MRP members and so on. In summer, it became an international youth hostel, licensed in 1949. Its purpose was to bring together young people from Europe whose parents fought in the Second World War.  

Abbé Pierre called it Emmaus, in reference to a Palestinian village where disciples who were in despair regained their hope. 

Striving for world peace 

From 1947, Abbé Pierre championed the idea of a global authority, which would preside over nation-states. He became actively involved in a number of branches of world federalism. For four years, he chaired the executive committee of the Mouvement universel pour une confédération mondiale ( M.U.C.M. [universal movement for a world confederation]). It was in this capacity that he served on the UN Human Rights Commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

In addition to M.U.C.M., Abbé Pierre was a founder, leader and simple member of many federalist, global and European organisations. 

His commitment to peace was equally as important, evidenced by his membership or support for a long list of movements. These included Action civique non violente, World Peace Brigade for Non-Violent Action, Comité pour la défense de la liberté et du droit, International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace, Mouvement international de la réconciliation (M.I.R.), and Union pacifiste de France (affiliated to War Resisters’ International). 

These different commitments, and many others too, led him to travel extensively to speak at conferences and meet prominent figures from all over the world. These trips offered him the opportunity to establish ties with other similar, existing initiatives to the Emmaus communities in France at the time, or encourage the creation of groups inspired by them. Many exchanges took place in the 1950s and 1960s as part of what was still only a network. This was the case for Oscar Pregnan and José  Aravena, two young Chileans who discovered the work of Emmaus in France and then returned to set up similar activities in their own country, with their group “The Magpies” (Las Urracas in Spanish). To this day, the network of Emmaus groups in Chile continues its work with four communities based in the south of Chile and in Santiago. 

Since it was set up in 1971, Emmaus International has considered itself first and foremost an international network of meetings and exchanges, to strengthen local struggles or develop collective struggles against poverty and injustice. 

A truly international form of governance 

This international inspiration is reflected in the current organisation of the movement, whose coordination is decentralised via continental groupings called Regions (Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe), and whose political leadership (the Board) is made up of people from these regions.  

World and regional assemblies are organised every 2 to 4 years, with the participation of all member groups, so as to facilitate the meeting and exchange of grassroots actors at the international level. These institutional meetings are supplemented by many other gatherings (colloquia, international workshops, etc.). 

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