Today, François Houtart’s leading role in the history of battles for liberation, of movements, of paths of resistance and affirmation for the dignity and rights of all people – even the most marginalised and oppressed – lives on everywhere.
For those of us who work in the Basso Foundation and in the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, since our beginnings in the early years of the 1970s François had always been one of us, at the deepest level of friendship, in the spirit of the most intense and free research, and in a spirit of truly universal militancy. It was in these that François was rooted, and to which he was always adding: in Asia, in Africa, and in his beloved Latin America. His resonance with the work of Lelio Basso and Linda Bimbi was fundamental: so diverse, yet complementary, as was as his close collaboration with François Rigaux, the memorable president of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal.
“His” place was always at the cutting edge of the Left: a location that can never occupy the position of that which has gone before, because its credibility and strength always reach towards the future. It is the populace that is still oppressed and not yet liberated (the original People to whom so much has been devoted in recent years, and those “exiled” by economic and financial neo-liberalism) that must be made manifestly visible, and must be able to participate in a single history; beyond politics, beyond cultures, and beyond religion.
François gave the entire world – of which he was a tireless citizen, something shown by the many things he founded and directed, all with nowhere for him to call home – his trust in the future; he was disillusioned but never acquiescent, in the knowledge that while battles may be lost, persistent struggle will eventually manifest itself as an essential condition for peace. This man, who had Camilo Torres as a student, and solemnly celebrated his memory in a Colombia in transition.
He gave the world the gift of sweet and welcoming enthusiasm, that of someone who never neglected a single human life: he told us this the last time we saw him, at the end of last April in his “Casa dell’Indio” – infinitely materially poor as always, but rich in so many paths still to take in Ecuador, in Brazil, in Cuba, and in Colombia. And in that moment, we said goodbye.
Hasta siempre, François.
Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General, Permanent Tribunal of the People
Franco Ippolito, President, Permanent Tribunal of the People