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From victim to artist of survival

A new experience in the mountains during an International Youth Meeting

A group of young adults from the ICB participated in the Bavarian mountains / Germany in an Intercultural and Inter religious Youth meeting: young men and women, Christians and Muslims, from Bethlehem, Iraq, Bosnia and Germany gathered together to discover new resources and tools.

The German foundation Wings of Hope and the International Center Bethlehem offered Youth, who for themselves already made the decision to step out of the circle of intolerance, violence and contra-violence, the possibility to ensure themselves about their need, to develop themselves as multipliers and to act as examples for other children and youth in their communities.

Background:

In 1993, Samuel P. Huntington published an article in the American magazine "Foreign Affairs" which made it to the headlines with the term "Clash of Civilizations". Huntington advocates the theory that future conflicts will not any more generate primarily along the lines of ideological frontiers or on the grounds of economic interests but for reasons of cultural differences.

Religion, one of the most prominent cultural foundations, plays a major role in this. If one follows the media coverage it is easy to interpret the pictures and news in this direction. The problem shows especially between the three big Abrahamitic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The fatality implied in such a thesis is something we want to counteract.

Furthermore, through an evaluation of this project, we strive to make transparent to others as well, how such a "Clash of Civilizations" does not need to be(come) reality and that there a ways to face the ignorance and the mistrust.

 

Ten years after Dayton, Bosnia and Herzegovina are unfortunately still far from constituting a functioning, multiethnic and multi-religious society. Big parts of the people are still strongly traumatized and as such not capable and willing to realize on their own the importance of reconciliation and dialogue.

The present situations in Iraq and Palestine present themselves in a worse and strangely distorted state. Gathering from narrations and experiences of the involved countries one can sketch the following picture:

Violence and terror do not happen only between the religious believes, but also within them. The spiral of violence and counter-violence seems more and more impenetrable and takes its' victims in almost each and every family. As a consequence, many children and youth, also adults, are severely traumatized.

 

First step for all participants was (is) the recognition of their own trauma and connected with this the decrease of negative emotions and perspectives. Through mobilizing of resources and stabilization of the participants, we wanted to accomplish a change in perception of a situation formerly seen as a dead-end. The project-participants experienced a learning-process in tolerance and understanding towards seemingly foreign and unfamiliar persons, and like this intercultural and inter-religious dialogue should be strengthened.

 

This is also why one of the goals was to train the seminar – participants to develop into Leadership personalities in order to be able to function as multipliers for their society and their community.

In one sentence: we aimed to turn victims of violence into actors of peace.

The involvement and participation of young multipliers in relevant projects in Bethlehem, Bosnia, Iraq and Germany showed us the importance of further exchanges.

The last big pillar concerning the goals of the seminar lied in the area of public awareness. The entire seminar was filmed by a German filmmaker and a Palestinian young filmmaker (Wafa Jamil). These two films will be disseminated to point out the necessity and the means of civil conflict transformation to a broader public audience and to give those institutions working in this field an option to be present in the media.

Why working on stress and trauma with young multipliers?

Prejudices, mistrust and refusal towards ‘the others’ are trauma-related symptoms. This is why a successful conflict work and transformation can only happen under the condition of building trust, establishing new criteria of judgment and friendship with ‘the others’.

Through our way of working, which especially takes into consideration all these facts, we enable the participants to build trust, to develop new perspectives and friendships.

It can be summed up as follows:

Prevention of violence, conflict work & conflict transformation can happen when enemies are able to turn into neighbours. One should stress once again the fact that these experiences are not only undergone by the participants. The participants share these processes and their knowledge in local NGO’s with other children and youth.

In this project, we stressed to combine the approach of conflict work and conflict prevention with a therapeutic approach.

For that to happen, the participants had to become conscious of their motives for action, their prejudices and their fears. That’s why we combined group building processes through outdoor activities with ‘topic orientated’ workshops and body therapy.

  

The program:

 10’th of August:
Arrival, setting in, getting to know each other and games for ‘Warming up’

11’th – 13’th of August:
Adventure pedagogic program for mobilizing resources and building trust (through out-door activities: hiking / climbing in the mountains and one night stay in a hut in the mountains)

 14’th – 15’th August:
Sharing the experiences and traumata…..Common rituals of grieving and strategies of processing: workshops about biographical experiences and ‘coping mechanism’ of stress and trauma. Body therapy.
Inter religious meditation / impuls (mostly every evening).

16’th of August.
The obligation to live on, the obligations of the survivors…..: Visit to Dachau and Munich, special focus on WW II and the ‘artists of survival’ during this period.

  17’th of August:
Body therapy / Workshops: ‘How to plan a summer academy with Young participants from countries like ours, they suffering from trauma and violence?’ – Interests groups

18’th of August:
Body therapy / Workshops: ‘Structure and concept / content of the summer academy 2007’ – Working groups

19’th of August:
Music therapy (percussion workshops) / Workshops: ‘Needed group leader abilities and how to build them up’ (regarding the summer academy 2007)
Afternoon: Swimming or biking

20’th of August:
Music therapy (percussion workshops) and preparation of the concert.

Evaluation, Outlook, Perspectives on Follow-up work and strategies.

 21’st of August:
Day of Media and press. Encounter with the staff and board members of the Foundation and other supporters / NGO’s working in the field of civil conflict transformation. Press conference with Sabine Sauer (Bavarian TV) and other media.

Evening: Concert (Percussion with all participants) / Farewell event.

 22’nd of August:

Farewell / Departure

 

 Outcome of the International seminar: 

The evaluation showed the overwhelming interests and needs of the participants to work on such difficult topics like ‘Coping with stress and trauma’ / ‘Group leading abilities’ etc.

The outdoor activities, the body therapy and the music therapy – in addition to the Workshops and inter religious meditations are great opportunities for our young multipliers to build up group leader abilities. Some participants were really growing during this time and showed new self confidence and motivation.

The environment, surrounding and professional facilitators offered a save place for all the divers activities.

The majority of the participants feel ‘ready’ for taking over own responsibilities in order to prepare the summer academy 2007.

Wings of Hope will visit the ICB with 3 therapists end of October in order to offer – together with own staff – a training for Social worker and Youth worker (20-25 participants) about ‘Coping mechanism of stress and trauma’.

In addition the ICB and Wings of Hope agreed to produce together the 20 minutes documentary of the Summer academy.

Anette Klasing / Project coordinator

 

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