Rethinking Our World

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Dear Friends,

Every era brings its challenges. Following our founder Joseph Wresinski’s way of thinking and doing, whenever our world is shaken up by political or social tumult, the ATD Fourth World Movement recalls its purpose. In Wresinski’s words:

“Our movement’s goal, beyond denouncing injustice, is to engage all of humanity in rethinking all of its ideals in terms of those who, by rights, are part of the community, but who, in fact, are outside of it.”

With the tragedy of Covid-19, many are calling for society to see this moment as a warning and a call to mobilize to stop the excesses of our world that cause such human damage, excesses that progress can no longer cover up. These raised voices are calling for ecological and social issues to be the priority. Appeals for help and signature campaigns are circulating on social media. As a movement, we are joining the global challenge to fight the pandemic, Covid-19.

But is the world ready to join us in the challenge of eradicating extreme poverty, this other pandemic?

Since early March, between different ATD groups, and from region to region, we’ve been exchanging news of people and families in greatest poverty. We have shared this news in our letters to ATD members. The pandemic is hitting countries at different times. Some are coming out of confinement while others have yet to experience the pandemic’s peak. It’s a time of emergency and we are doing what we can with the means we have. On our own, and with other local organizations, we are running actions with groups or, at times, individual projects, that are often truly creative. We are also beginning to form working groups to rethink our actions, question national leaders, and take part in topical discussions. In some countries, we’ve seen a resurgence of food distribution as the first response to this social crisis affecting people in already precarious situations.

In ATD we are well positioned to know that some people have nothing and need help. We are even helping with food ourselves. But food distribution is once again becoming the only solution for segments of our populations. Of course, people go to distribution points because they need the food. However, it’s one thing to keep people from going hungry, and quite something else to invite them to rethink the future along with everyone else.

Early on, in Noisy-le-Grand, France, Joseph Wresinski raised the bar in fighting poverty:

“People in deepest poverty will never get out of it as long as they are not welcomed at the same table where other women and men discuss and debate critical issues. They must be there on equal footing wherever people exchange and decide, not just about today, but about human destiny, the future of humanity.”

How can we prepare now for the day after the pandemic subsides?  How can we be ready and what are we prepared to invest so that those in greatest poverty are also at the table to think about the future for everyone? People who’ve always been the victims of the pandemic of poverty, with its isolation and social distancing, have a unique contribution to make. They should also be able to take strength from the promising voices for change emerging all around us.

ATD is asking the general public and institutions, to reflect on and plan for the many changes needed for our world to respect the dignity and contribution of all people, beginning with those whose voices go unheard. And, we, as members of ATD Fourth World have hard thinking to do as well. That’s why in our last letter we suggested a movement-wide rallying time around May 15th, the International Day of Families, dedicated to sharing what we are learning during this pandemic and what we see for tomorrow’s world. Let’s get out there and talk with people, individually or in small groups, and brainstorm with people who have no opportunities to be heard. In some places it might be a telephone call, or meeting with people while respecting physical distancing, or spending time with someone who drops into the Fourth World house.

This May 15th initiative is a step toward the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty that will be filled with these insights. The October 17th call to unite is more apt and necessary than ever.

We send our greetings and friendship and await your thoughts and contributions to new ideas.

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