We are struggling to get to grips with the problem, that has become clear to all of us over the past year.
In May there was a roundtable discussion in which we discussed where we are at the moment and where we (want to) go. The central question “what makes us Emmaus” was not discussed in sufficient depth. There is a kind of self-evidence that we “know that”. Dealing with this superficially is an important part of the problem.
As a follow-up to the meeting, we had discussions with most of the Emmaus groups on the theme “what makes us Emmaus”, a discussion about our core values and the associated practice. In terms of content it became clear, again, that the core values are quite general. So general that the values themselves do not connect. In the elaboration of the values in practice there is a lot of room for a local interpretation. Where new groups emerge or a new generation takes over the baton, you see that the connection with historical thinking is much less strong. And that this also dilutes the bonds between them. It also emerged that the core values formulated in 2012 (based on the Universal Manifesto) are in need of reformulation.
A plan has also been made for this. We note that everyone is trying to row at their own location with the straps they have and considers that to be a given. There seems to be little demand for an overarching approach or analysis; local autonomy is sacred. Or is there too little confidence that a joint approach has added value? We also find it quite difficult to question ourselves. We do not succeed in involving enough people who ‘look from the outside in’.
Meanwhile, the commuter community in de Bilt has been transformed into a volunteer group that runs the shop. Emmaus Prinsegracht has (temporarily?) stopped providing living space. Emmaus Eindhoven, with the support of various Emmaus groups and Emmaus Nederland, is making a fresh start. Emmaus Feniks finds his way after a few years of internal struggles and red numbers, Emmaus Langeweg flourishes but is very vulnerable, etc.
In the search for support staff, one thing stands out: as soon as there is a vacancy (such as at Emmaus Langeweg or Emmaus Feniks Tegelen) with the possibility of becoming a paid, expatriate employee, there is quite a reasonable response. In the 70’s and 80’s choosing Emmaus was ‘choosing a way of life’; in the year 2020 this is no longer the case. Now people are looking for a meaningful job, with plenty of room for a private life. A frugal life, service, social idealism were for years important themes to which people felt attracted; now it’s about personal development. In addition, people are still willing to work on social or societal goals. However, it happens much more from a personal than from a collective consciousness. Solidarity is ultimately based on the feeling that you are part of a greater whole and that you want to work for the common good. Where the feeling of being part of a group, class, order, church or any other connection is lacking, the collective perspective and the possibility to fight for common interests is lost. That is the reality in which Emmaus has to hold his own. This is also where the great importance of organizations like Emmaus lies: against the flow of the ever-increasing individualization.
We must realise that shaking off ideological feathers (as, for example, the PVDA did) takes us further away from our mission: a just and liveable world for every human being. Precisely where only the individual interest carries the main tone, Emmaus must make a different sound. For this it is absolutely necessary that we also strengthen our internal connection and practically give hands and feet to this. In short, we still have a long way to go and we have to be aware that the spirit of the times should not overtake us in the meantime, as far as that might not have already happened….
Emmaus is an international movement consisting of communities of permanent residents and temporary guests. The communities provide for their upkeep by setting up recycling companies and working in them. The proceeds of these businesses also help refugees, the needy and the homeless. Emmaus also wants to benefit the environment with these activities. In addition to residential communities, there are also volunteer groups whose members participate in the recycling companies. Emmaus was founded in 1949 by Abbé Pierre. The motto of the Emmaus communities is: … living together, working together, sharing… There are Emmaus communities in 37 countries on four continents (Africa, Asia, America and Europe).