One week from November, 12 to November, 18 was marked by an outstanding 2nd session of the YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation Peace Work Institute in Berlin. I had the honor to ‘leap’ into this project missing the first step – the session in Tbilisi, to be embraced by the open and caring participants.
This session was dedicated to the development of our Tandem Group Peace Projects and the exploration of the ‘Do No Harm Approach’. We’ve discussed the core of our projects in multicultural groups and then looked at them though the ‘Do No Harm’ methods that presuppose sensitive and very conscious-about-details approach to conflict resolution. During the session we also explored Berlin with its rich history of acceptance and reconciliation.
When I came back home and told this story to my co-workers explaining why I had been missing for a week, I kept getting one and the same comment: “Why are you doing all that?”. Not because they diminish the importance of peace, for sure they don’t; it is due to the fact that it is impossible to understand how much change can Roots create, not paying attention to people’s feelings and these small stories that would never happen without the project.
The key feeling for me during this session would be ‘Trust’. The Trust from the organizers giving us the responsibility to be in charge of the projects, doing their best to guide us and believing in us, anyway. The Trust from the participants sharing honestly their ideas, feelings and believes. And the Trust from my YMCA supporting me in going for the Roots.
One of the most important smaller stories that happened to me because of this session is connected with the Berlin Wall. Deeply touched by our visit to the Berlin Wall Museum I bought a book about the history of the Berlin Wall to find out more. I was reading about the escapees from the GDR when I came across the story of several elderly couples who escaped though a handmade tunnel of 1.75 meters height. When they were asked what was the point of making such a big tunnel, they said ‘ We wanted to walk to freedom with our wives, comfortably and unbowed’. And the simple idea struck me: my perception of peace before that moment was so limited and vague; peace does not only mean ‘no war’, it means the chance for people to live in dignity, which apart from many things mean ‘to have no place for hatred in the heart’.
I believe in small stories. Our projects may not stop massive killing in countries at war, but if they could strip some particular people of prejudices and hatred, and help them to live in dignity, that would be enough for a big story to start.
By Natasha Martynenko, YMCA Russia