New walls have been going up around the world. Some are cement walls that make it almost impossible for people to circulate and to get to know one another. Elsewhere, we see neighborhoods putting up metal gates to prevent camping by people who have nowhere else to go. Intended to make life safer for some people, these walls condemn others to insecurity and suffocate them. They make it impossible for people to develop the mutual respect needed in order to work toward solutions together.
Everyone misses out on the community that might have been. And yet, faced with these formidable obstacles, sometimes taking great risks, there are women, men, youths and children who find breaches in the walls. They open doors, they invite others to gatherings or celebrations where each person is considered worth getting to know, with no one imposing a single way of living or set of convictions.
In working toward social justice, there are times when nothing is enough, even the mobilization of thousands of people, from the man in the street to the influential. Hope, always fragile, can be pushed aside until we are weighed down by the question, “Are our efforts all for nothing? What's the point if, behind the walls of rules, certainties, laws, the powers that be don't want to see or hear, don't want to share power?” So where can we find the courage needed to build solidarity, without reversing into violence that would only trigger more violence, putting still more innocents at risk? Our era has been marked by events that pit people against one another.
Where can we find the energy to build a community where the desire to live together in peace can be stronger than the fear of the “other,” stronger than distrust of those who live differently, stronger than even the rejection of those who have no choice but to survive by their wits?
“May we dare work toward justice and peace!” was the call, thirty years ago, of Fr. Joseph Wresinski. This challenge remains at the heart of ATD Fourth World, which has always continued, together with others, to initiate thousands of gatherings amongst people and communities who know nothing of one another.
Day after day, our goal is to build a new shared history: one that is free from false security and one where knowledge, learning and power are no longer the private property of some; but one where those who bear the brunt of every crisis are the first to inspire the way forward. May we dare reach out to others in ways that will renew our energy, courage and ambitions.
Eugen Brand, Director General
International Movement ATD Fourth World