From the 15th to the 23rd of September 2017 23 young people came together to learn about nonviolence and peace in The Netherlands. The training is hosted by the Dutch NGO “Foundation for Active Nonviolence” (Stichting voor Actieve Geweldloosheid) and co-financed by the Erasmus+ fund for Youth workers.
Participants came from Egypt, Palestine (OPT), Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Italy, Romania, Germany, and The Netherlands, forming a very diverse group. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of inter-cultural learning and sharing about local challenges and inspirations. On two evenings participants shared about the revolution of 2011 in Egypt, occupation in Palestine, declining democracy in Turkey, mafia on the Italian island Sicily, a big mining project in Romania and more. Surely, there are reasons to be troubled, while at the same time people shared about the beauty of their homes, hopes for the future and ongoing activism.
The training program is structured in such a way that we first establish a common understanding of key terms, and than engage people in shorter and longer role plays. To give you an impression, let me share some of the exercises we did, that demonstrate the core understandings that the rest of the program builds on:
- The Violence Spectrum: a powerful tool that helps people to reflect on violence and hear many different opinions.
- The ‘faces’ of violence: understanding that Violence is not just visible ‘Direct’ violence, but includes Structural and Cultural Violence.
- Forms of Power: Besides power-over, people can be powerful through collaborating together: power with, and developing personal skills and inner peace: power within.
We started role playing with four stories of nonviolent actions that participants played out, so they would remember the stories. We then provided some theoretical models, to discuss several responses to conflict. After which we exemplified Five Ways to Stop Intimidation and Harassment . To develop their Conflict Transformation skills, we offered the Forum Theater technique, whereby participants create their own plays and intervene in each other’s scenes, to change the dynamics of the play. People also got a taste of what Restorative Justice Circles look like, and engaged in practiced communication skills, drawing on Non-Violent Communication as developed by Rosenberg.
And this is not everything we did… So, you can understand our week was incredibly full! Besides the workshops we did as a group, we also had two special activities… Participants held an Open Evening for locals to attend, and we visited the Humanity House, in The Hague a museum with an interactive exposition about refugees.