Year the first organisation was set up: 1950
Year the first organisation became a member: 1971
Member organisations: 7 Countries: 4
Trial members: 2
In November 1949, Abbé Pierre set up the first Emmaus community in Neuilly-Plaisance, on the outskirts of Paris. At almost exactly the same time, people were setting up similar initiatives in other countries, including Belgium, Argentina and Japan. These people knew nothing of Abbé Pierre or Emmaus in France until the Abbé's call for action on 1st February 1954, which caught the world's attention. They saw their own values reflected in Abbé Pierre's work and got in touch with him.
Wherever they are in the world, Emmaus organisations almost always grow from initiatives set up by local people in response to local needs, using local resources and expertise. They are never imposed on communities from outside.
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Elected members representing Asia on the Emmaus International board:
Selva Alexander (India)
Josephine Martine (India)
Hélène Sayad (Lebanon)
Moon Sharma (India)
The beginnings of Emmaus in Asia
In the 1950s, the seeds of the Emmaus movement were sown in Asia in two ways: in some countries, via local initiatives and missionary priests, in others following visits from Abbé Pierre.
In Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, organisations became part of the movement in the first way.
The first Emmaus organisation in Asia was established in 1950, in Tokyo, Japan. This was a purely Japanese initiative. Mr. Ozawa, who had been ruined by the Second World War, Mr. Matsui and Ms. Kitahara, a young woman from a privileged background, established Arino-Kai ("the City of Ants"), a ragpicking community for people who had lost everything. In 1955, following his superiors' advice, French missionary Robert Vallade went to the village to learn about their way of life, and then established Gyoko-Kai ("Morning Light") in Kobe, also in Japan. In 1956, he contacted the Emmaus community in Neuilly-Plaisance, asking for funds: not to feed people, but to help them work so they could feed themselves. Under the direction of father Vallade, several more Emmaus communities were established in Japan. Emmaus communities in France, Italy and Denmark helped to get these communities off the ground.
In Indonesia, father Antoine Van Dam, a Dutch missionary, worked with poor communities in Medan, on the island of Sumatra. In 1961, he asked the Emmaus travelling community to help him buy a mobile clinic. He later met Abbé Pierre and established a community centre, partially funded by collecting paper and empty bottles from ships calling at the port. In 1999, the Indonesia organisation, on the island of Java, an associate of Emmaus Helsinki, became a member of Emmaus International.
In South Korea, a Korean priest found out about Emmaus through a Japanese newspaper. In 1957, he took over an empty field and set up a community to take in children and teenagers who had been orphaned by war. This was the youngest ragpicking community in the world.
In India and Lebanon, Emmaus took root as a result of local initiatives, as is almost always the case, but was helped to grow by visits from Abbé Pierre.
Abbé Pierre visited India for the first time from December 1958 to January 1959, when he was invited to speak by the country's federation of Catholic universities. He met Nehru, who delivered a message of support to Emmaus volunteers in the country, young men and women from abroad who were working in slums and rural areas. Shortly afterwards, the Swallows in Sweden (members of Emmaus) set up the Swallows in India.
En route to India, Abbé Pierre stopped off in Beirut, Lebanon, and delivered some speeches. On his return journey, several weeks later, he was astonished to learn that a Maronite Christian, a Shiite Muslim and a Druze had established an Emmaus community and named it the Oasis of Hope. Members of this community were making a living by collecting used goods and by producing fuel.
Emmaus arrived in Bangladesh in 1971 in response to an urgent appeal following the massacre of all the men and boys in a village during the war of independence. The Swallows in Sweden travelled to the village and asked Emmaus International, which had been created several months before, for financial support. Once the situation was more stable, the organisation set up workshops where the women who had been widowed could earn a living by sewing and dyeing clothing. Thirty years later, Thanapara Swallows became a member of Emmaus International.
Bangladesh . India . Indonesia . Lebanon