When I first meet my dear colleagues from YMCA Slovakia, I was just starting an independent cultural NGO in the same building as they were seated and, at that moment at the very centre of my bohemian life, a Christian non-profit organization crossed my path. That was a real surprise for me as my only contact with this religion was through my grandmother, she taught me to pray and took me to the church while Christmas visits with my other cousins. The preacher´s speech was pretty much the same every year and I never needed more of it in my life. I was respectful to others, I was always helping in case someone needed me, I could forgive, and I was forgiven, I felt loved by the people I loved. While observing some of my friends who claimed to be Christians, I realized the hypocrisy in their lives and trying not to judge I was just not interested anymore.
That changed when I understood what YMCA Slovakia goals are, what did they achieve thanks to their local activities and suddenly I meet people who saw Christianity as active service for the others. That started to break down my prejudice about this religion. Soon it will be 4 years since I started to work with them, and it is hard to find the words to describe how they enriched my life. During this time, I have meet members and YMCA workers from all over Slovakia and from all over the world and no one has ever suggested that I should become a member of their religion. We tolerate each other because we share the most important values.
This is something I learned also during my last international (and multireligious) experience with YMCA Europe. I was one of the 40 participants from 17 different European countries gathered for the Peace Work Institute Alumni Reunion. From Portugal to Azerbaijan, from Armenia to Northern Ireland a great bunch of young people, youth workers, and social workers were meeting in order to reflect on their previous meetings. It has been two years since the second round of the project started and participants were discovering peace practices and exchanging good examples of what their organizations were doing. If I should describe these precious moments spent with the participants, this article would never end. I will rather mention the organization team which was responsible for this Roots for reconciliation project since 2012 till now. Vardan, Marius and Rezi with the help of few experts and trainers have put together a functional scheme which brings together people who would otherwise never meet, they made them experience a lot together and it changed their life perspective forever. The structure is designed especially for people from conflict countries. Yes, now why would a Slovak person be interested in such a project, right?
First, I was interested as someone who works with marginalised youth and wants to learn methods on how to bring together groups of people who are ignoring or hating each other. This was my local goal but what I realized just after the project is the global perspective I gained. Being from a non-conflict country gives me a powerful position of stepping up for someone who is from a country whose governments are at war or whatever kind of conflict. We need to explain to our young people that the privilege of living in peace is not granted forever and that we need to take care of it and one of the ways how to do it is to step up for those whose lives and future are in danger. Perhaps then our local conflicts will dissolve in senselessness once the young generation meets their peers who felt the absence of peace on their skin.
Till that happens let me thank again to the organizers and inspirational experts who joined us at all stages of the project for leading me towards the next level in my work.