Youth for Peace
German-Greek Youth Exchanges
Hamburg — Lechovo
Berlin — Lechovo
In times of major political, social and economic challenges in Europe, it is important that young Europeans connect with each other, in order to better understand old and new challenges, and to be able to face them in the future. Rethinking identities, critically assessing stereotypes, understanding different perspectives, as well as walking unexplored paths of joint history, proves to be crucial for reconciliation and peace work in Europe.
Since the economic crisis, political and social relations between various countries in Europe have been suffering. However, this does not portray the daily life of many people living in Europe. In many cases, European civil societies are deeply intertwined and interconnected, which is often hard to see while analysing national media.
The projects presented in the following aim at emphasizing the importance of peace and reconciliation work in Europe and of underlining the important role of peace education for European youth, in order to reflect on the past and construct the future. Civil society can play an active role in such work, as when connecting throughout Europe, thus reaching mutual understanding and cooperation.
Background and Motivation
Our first youth encounter in 2014 was one of the first of its kind between German civil society and the Greek martyr village communities. The scope of destruction and suffering caused in Greece during Nazi occupation in the Second World War is hardly known to the European public, which includes German public discourse. Greece’s Jewish population was almost entirely wiped out over the course of the Second World War. A famine that was caused by severe mismanagement of occupation zones and food distribution killed more than 300 000 citizens. Moreover, the civilian population in so-called martyr villages was decimated when the Nazis carried out acts of retaliation in response to partisan attacks.
Even today, traces of German occupation are left behind in these villages (among other places), as it has not only brought inestimable long-term psychological suffering upon their residents and survivors, but the material basis of the villages has been destroyed and thus much of its cultural heritage disappeared. This especially applies to small mountain villages in remote areas, whose means of livelihood are still based on craftsmanship, and which today suffer from high rates of unemployment. Due to the financial situation, perspectives for youth in these areas have become limited.
Many of those communities show interest in reconciliation projects, such as youth encounters. However, crucial funds for such projects cannot be raised from their side in these times of financial crisis.
In the aforementioned financial crisis, the media has played an important role in polarising different groups of people, often reinforcing stereotypes, and helping to strengthen nationalistic forces. This misrepresents the decades long approaching of European societies and the will, which exists in communities that have suffered in the past, to call for better international understanding and cooperation.
Our project is aimed at bringing together Greek and German youth to learn about the past and draw reference to today’s problems. By focusing on the topic of discrimination, we wanted the teenagers to carve out similarities in mechanisms and strategies of discrimination, to critically reflect on these and elaborate on possible response strategies. Furthermore, the broadening of their horizons was encouraged, as was the mutual understanding of each other, in order to reflect on discourses and behaviours in an empathic way, forming their own opinions and drawing their own conclusions by reflected reasoning.
European youth will decide about Europe’s future. With the help of pedagogical peace education approaches European youth can and will engage in European and international cooperation and reconciliation.
In case you are working, and/or engaged with German and Greek youth, Jewish communities in Greece or Germany, or so-called Greek martyr villages and are interested in organising similar exchange programmes, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We aim at better connecting German and Greek civil society to enable more fruitful cultural exchange within Europe.
We believe that connecting European youth and European civil society plays a key role for rethinking Europe and for finding socially responsible ways of dealing with the challenges we now face.
We offer our help to connect you with interested organisations in both countries, as well as to facilitate suitable partner organisations in finding each other. The pilot projects in 2014 and 2015 were intended to draw interest in civil society and youth of both countries towards each other and to motivate more groups to follow our example and connect with each other.
Xenia Fastnacht, Rita Loumites and Katharina Wuropulos – Organizers of the 2014 and 2015 youth encounters
Participants of the 2014 and 2015 youth encounters:
- Peace Church of Charlottenburg, Susanne Dannenmann, Berlin, Germany
- Cultural Association Lechovo "Prophet Elias", Evangelos Stefanidis, Lechovo - Florina, Greece
- Gymnasium Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums, Hamburg, Germany
Organizers of the 2014 and 2015 youth encounters:
Xenia Fastnacht, Rita Loumites and Katharina Wuropulos
Concept and design:
Photography and film:
Das Projekt wird gefördert im Programm EUROPEANS FOR PEACE der Stiftung "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft" (EVZ).
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