You see the families who live in slums. You try to understand them, to perceive their reactions to your fraternal gestures, their thoughts on life, their way of living. And often, you are baffled.
We have attempted to help you towards an understanding. On an international level, we have organised three symposia which gathered experts of ten different nationalities. Our small newsletter endeavours to reach the soul, the mind and the heart, beyond facts or anecdotes. We have manned stands in fairs to raise awareness and give a voice to the families who live in slums.
Few understand this task we have set ourselves: to inform, raise awareness and explain. Some think that we should be content to help out, or rescue or support the families living in slums. They are right to warn us: “Beware not to fall into a sterile intellectualisation of poverty”. We thank them, for they help us not to stray from human contact, presence, listening, communion and delicate intervention.
But on the other hand, how can we be present if the way of life in the slums escapes us? How can we listen if we do not understand the language spoken? How can we help without knowing the needs? Do we not risk unconsciously approving, and unintentionally perpetuating this inhuman fate?
Both attitudes are complementary, and do not invalidate each other. To love so as to understand and to understand so as to love are the foundations of any fraternal approach.
— Joseph Wresinski: Extracts from the editorial for issue n°5 of Igloos, 1st November 1961.