Sonntag, 29. Juli 2018
If you meet a stranger, talk to him
peacecamp 2018 in Lackenhof and Vienna
If you meet a stranger, talk to him
peacecamp 2018 in Lackenhof and Vienna

33 teenagers from four delegations – Jewish and Palestinian Israelis, Hungarians and Austrians, amongst those a small group of asylum seekers – spent ten days in the solitude of Lackenhof at the Ötscher mountains in Lower Austria. The encounter was meant to enable them to get to know one another on the individual as well as on the national, cultural, religious level, to talk about prevailing social and political issues of their respective societies, to try and find creative solutions to problems, and, last but not least, to replace racist prejudices and misconceptions with a more realistic perception of the respective other based on personal experience and own judgement.

The participating youth were accompanied by a team of professionals, amongst them the actress Anna-Sophie Fritz, the musician Lukas Hauptfeld and twelve other adults – (art-)therapists, group psychoanalyst, psychologists and four group coordinators, one per group. At the end of the encounter each participant was appointed “Ambassador of Peace” and a show4peace was put on stage, at which the young people showed a larger audience in a theatre in Vienna what peacecamp had been for them. This was attended by Vienna’s chief rabbi Arie Folger and deputy chief of mission of the State of Israel Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein who both addressed the young with profound words apt to encourage them to follow the path of peaceful coexistence and of non-violent ways to cope with conflict and problems.

The focus of peacecamp was the encounter with the “other” and the readiness to perceive others with one’s own eyes. Daily large group-analytical sessions led by group analyst Thomas Jung and attended by all, young as well as adults, enabled to become aware of unconscious, unpleasant or anxiety-provoking feelings, attitudes or traits which tend to be warded off by defence mechanisms such as repression, denial or projection on others; moments of self-disclosure and deep personal insight followed by emotional and empathic responses from the group threw new light on how participating individuals now perceived themselves and were now perceived by others.

Four culture evenings enabled each group to present their own group with its national, cultural, religious and other characteristics; the Austrian group, with only one of its nine participants an “autochthonous” Austrian while all others with so-called “migration background”, staged and stood together as a group, showing what they considered “typical Austrian” dance, music, folklore and humour.

In the “talks4peace” workshop, serious topics were addressed, such as a person’s identity, composed of, and formed by many different parts and influences; the teenagers discussed complex issues such as minorities, environment protection, women’s rights and what a more peaceful world would look like and be made of.

Personal “life story books”, a documentation of each participant’s own family history, were shared in small groups; this allowed getting to know, feeling close and establishing bonds. The knowledge of the difficult, often traumatic parts of people’s life history enabled to understand what funny, smiling or serious faces of peers would not necessarily reveal at a glance and to feel and express sympathy or solidarity with those who have suffered.

The “Ambassador of Peace” awards as well as “Youthpasses”, issued by the EU-programme “Erasmus+: Youth in Action”, were handed out within the last day’s show4peace in Lackenhof in the presence of public figures, filling all with pride and joy and giving hope that these young people will multiply the seeds of peace they have collected during their stay in Lackenhof.

pc 2018:
NÖ heute:

this peacecamp was sponsored by Erasmus+ Youth in Action

Evelyn Böhmer-Laufer
July 2018

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