The Stone and its Replicas: A Symbol of Our Humanity

The history and significance of the Commemorative Stone in memory of people resisting extreme poverty first displayed on 17 October 1987 in Paris and replicated throughout the world.

In 1987, 100,000 people from all over the world demonstrated in Paris on 17 October to bring attention to extreme poverty. A moving ceremony took place near the Eiffel tower at a stone memorial ATD had created in memory of all those who have suffered and died because of the injustice of poverty. Since then, the United Nations has recognized 17 October as World Day for Overcoming Poverty. The day is commemorated at numerous similar memorials constructed around the world. Each memorial is engraved with words originally spoken by ATD’s founder Joseph Wresinski in 1987.

Huguette Redegeld, a member of ATDs Volunteer Corps, was present at the original demonstration and has attended numerous ceremonies over the years to mark World Day for Overcoming Poverty. In this article, she recalls some of the significant events that have occurred on that day since 1987.

I was like a child receiving a gift he had always wanted without really knowing it. I found myself amazed at the extent of what I was participating in with thousands of other people: a Commemoration in honour of people resisting extreme poverty on the Plaza of Human Rights and Liberties in Paris. That was 17 October 1987.

In 1963, Joseph Wresinski put out a call for help from a shantytown outside Paris where we was living and working with people in extreme poverty. His goal was not just to alleviate poverty, but to put an end to it. I answered his appeal, determined to give my best effort to support this radically idealistic undertaking. I never imagined that one day in 1987 I would be standing near the Eiffel tower, looking down at a marble Commemorative Stone engraved with words that made essentially the same appeal I had heard from him so many years ago:

“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated.

To come together to ensure these rights be respected is our solemn duty.”

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