A struggle born of a refusal and a challenge

In 1956, when we joined forces with the families in the emergency housing camp in Noisy-le-Grand, we vowed that the time of injustice was behind us and an era of justice had begun.

Our struggle was born of this refusal: never again shame and human misery; never again the dread of homelessness, the humiliating lack of education and the hurt of social injustice.

Our struggle was also born of the challenge to bring the poorest people together in a Fourth World movement; for them to become defenders of Human Rights, champions of the very rights they had been denied for so long. For those with no voice to become spokespeople for justice, freedom and fraternity, and for the oppressed and downtrodden to become defenders of democracy, with their experience seen as essential, crucial even, in building a society free from exclusion and extreme poverty.

But have we met this challenge? Have we created this true democracy that leaves no-one aside? This democracy that unites us in a shared concern for justice, and that gives priority to the most disadvantaged, those crushed by insecurity from one generation to the next? Is this democracy about to see the light of day? At the end of this century, is it on the horizon?

This will depend on the political, social, economic, cultural and religious powers that be, but above all on the will of each and every one of us. It is people’s determination that will move leaders to recognise the rights of the very poorest individuals, families and communities.

The task of those in authority is not to let justice languish, but to take up and coordinate people’s efforts, to validate their cause, and to accomplish what they are striving for. The most disadvantaged are already at the forefront of this effort and thousands of their fellow-citizens have joined forces with them. That is why, in complete confidence, we can freely call on the powers that be, all of them, to enforce the rights of the poorest and make the total eradication of poverty and exclusion their absolute priority.

Time is of the essence. Recession, inflation and unemployment must not be used as excuses, as pretexts, for postponing until tomorrow the fate of the most disadvantaged people. Such would be tantamount to making them bear, yet again, the full brunt of the crisis, taking from them the little they may have secured, depriving them of work, housing and education, and leaving them with even less opportunity to affirm their dignity.


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