„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“

Peace Work Institute - Session 2

9th July 2013

June 10 - 16 Peace Work Institute (PWI) Session 2 within YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation project took place in Yerevan (Armenia). The first session of the series was in October last year (Istanbul, Turkey), and the final one is scheduled in December this year to be held in the European Youth Centre Strasbourg (France).

Peace Work Institute (PWI) Session 2 within YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation project.

The event in Yerevan enrolled 30 participants and facilitators representing 14 YMCA movements and partner organisations from all over Europe. Digital Activism, Reflective Peace Practices, Areas of Peace Work and Case Statements for Tandem Projects were the main educational modules of this session. Resultant YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation online communication platforms were created or tailored to keep the Team PWI effectively interacting in between the residential session, and to enable extensive outreach of the project's message to wider public. Draft case statements were elaborated to start the planning process of Tandem Projects within the Roots for Reconciliation portfolio, projects which are to be initiated and led by the PWI graduates in 2014. Those especially consider cross-border initiatives between young people from Georgia and Russia, Armenia and Turkey, in the Balkans and Nagorno Karabagh. And most importantly, all these outputs and outcomes were achieved thanks to excellent group dynamics created and maintained through the whole week. Every single participant and facilitator has his/her unique contribution here - like Rachel from England...

Rachel, Vardan and Adrian

My name is Rachel and I am from the North East of England. I attended both Peace Work Institute in Istanbul and Yerevan. I started in Peace Work through the Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCA and was asked to share my experiences with the European Peace Movement.

As well as sharing my experiences I attend the Peace Work Institute as a participant. In Yerevan I was very honoured to be asked to be part of the planning team for Strasbourg. I feel privileged to be a member of the peace work institute when its main aims are around the Balkans and Caucasus and the post conflict, reconciliation work that is going on there. I am not from this region nor did I have a good understanding of the conflict in Eastern Europe until recently, until the Peace Work Institute. To be part of the process and part of the peace work in Europe, for me, is not only about this level of peace but peace on all levels; between people and within people.

It is often said that England and participants from England represent a neutral country in all the situations. For me, this cannot be true. To be neutral, you take the side of the oppressor. Being neutral is to painful for me, when I hear the stories of the brave and inspiring participants, friends of Peace Work Institute, England is not neutral, I am not neutral. I do feel that, as English participants, we can bring something to the table. In Yerevan, being part of the Tandem Grant for Nagorno Karabagh was an honor and I admire the bravery of the participants and friends of those that told their story. I still carry it with me daily and imagine I will carry it with me for a long time to come.

Peace is not a destination but a journey and one I have already traveled far on it thanks to the Peace Work Institute. I work with young people on a daily basis and the learning from the PWI has enabled me to share that with them so that they can live their life in a do no harm manner and start on that journey of peace.

It is thanks to the facilitators and participants, my friends, that make the PWI an inspiring place to be and I leave feeling energised and motivated and dread that conference come down! Thank you to YMCA Europe and England for the opportunity and experience.

(Rachel Dyne, PWI participant, England, 24 year old)

Author/Source: Vardan Hambardzumyan, YMCA Europe Executive Secretary