This is the third and last part of the report, commenting on the 5 days gathering in Caux, where a group of 15 Armenians, Kurds and Turks from Lebanon, The Netherlands and Armenia participated in the Initiatives of Change (IoC) program ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business”. Read here part 1 and part 2.
Day 4 – Personal stories about change and action plans
The status of Roma in Romania
Simona Torotcai (Roma activist) and Diana Damsa (Centre for Social Transformation) are both from Romania. The latter belongs to the Romanian majority and Simona to the Roma minority. In a dual presentation they took us through a journey of prejudices, neglect and segregation towards more awareness and cooperation between these two communities in Romania.
Diana said she had zero contact with Roma people and that the situation in Romania was not about diversity, but about uniformity. In classes Roma were always used as a ‘bad example’, she was taught that ‘they were dirty’, ‘disorganized’ and that Romanians were supposed to be ‘superior’. These feelings are still present in Romania.
Simona had a difficult time in coping with this status-quo. On the one hand, there was the high-demanding mainstream society which discriminated the Roma’s, and on the other hand she felt not comfortable within her own group, ‘who sticked together’. She had to proof herself as a Romanian and felt ashamed about her Roma background.
Diana went on a IoC trip to India, which was also an internal journey with regards to her prejudices about Roma. She was confronted by the lack of knowledge about the Roma. How they suffered during the Holocaust, for example. ‘I wanted to reach out, build trust and face prejudices. I discovered that a lot of Roma choose to be invisible, just to protect themselves.’
Simona also went on a journey. She tried to quit her behavior that could be described as an unending strife of ‘being liked by Romanian society’. ‘I accepted who I am, and started to speak out and put Roma issues on the mainstream agenda’.
Jo Berry and the IRA
The next story of personal change was from Jo Berry, founder of ‘Building Bridges for Peace’.
Her story started in 1984, when her father, a conservative politician, was killed in an IRA-bomb attack. Two days after this horrific incident, she made a decision: ‘I’m not going to have an enemy. I wanted to understand the people who killed my father.’
Belfast was a warzone back then. With British soldiers all over the place. She met people from the IRA, but also loyalists and ex British soldiers. I wanted to understand what made them think that violence was the only option. Than finally, in 2000, she was able to speak with the man who killed her father. Sitting in a room, she went through a lot of emotions and thoughts like ‘he doesn’t look like my idea of a terrorist’. When he started to speak she heard all kinds of justifications for the bomb-attack. He talked in the we-form and spoke endlessly about ‘our community’, that violence ‘worked’, because it led finally to the peace process in which the IRA got their ‘political platform’. After a while he stopped talking and said: ‘I don’t know who I am anymore, and what to do?. That was for Berry the moment that she saw that he also wanted to take a journey, apart from the political hat, which he he had taken off by showing a vulnerable side.
So he went from ‘being political to the heart’, to a disarmed posture, he couldn’t stay righteous all the time anymore, and apologized for his act. That apology was for Berry a recognition of the humanity of her father. ‘Since then I am involved in the non-violent restorative approach. We need safe spaces where stories can be heard. The killer of my father is not just that. He is also a friend, cousin, and many other things. It is important to think together about how to create change.’
Third Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue: ‘Work-session one’
In this meeting we started with where we left yesterday: an action-plan and follow-up after Caux. What are the next steps? How are we going to engage with each other structurally? John Bond was also present and said ‘that there are always opportunities for people who are serious. And since you are serious, it is important to make steps. We did it in one night in Australia for the sorry-campaign for the aboriginals’. Bond’s words revealed an interesting drive and we started to note things down. And from then things went fast…
After setting up the structure of a possible organization, we made another appointment to see each other again in the evening and listened to Nvard Loryan’s presentation about the measurement of peace. The economics of peace can be an interesting tool to substantiate peace movements with raw numbers. Another interesting point is the difference between negative peace (the absence of fear and violence) and positive peace (institutional approach for creating peace, and the free flow of information). The Global Peace index also reveals numbers about the costs of violence.
Fourth Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue meeting:
It was a rather interesting place (at the bay in Montreux) to have another work-session, but it all worked out well. Everybody took a seat. First we decided to pick dates for the reviews and contact moments after we returned home. After that we took a long round up, without comments and interruptions, in which everybody could say how he or she experienced Caux 2018 and the goals for the future with the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue.
After everybody finished, we took two taxi’s to CAUX. This was the formal ending of the dialogue in Caux. We have made agreements. Now it’s up to us to fulfill the commitments.
Day 5, 27-7-2018, Final day
On the final day of the Caux Forum for ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ we watched an amazing performance of The Lion King & Titanic, prepared in the training tracks course of Txema Perez.
The next speaker was ‘key listener’ Mike Brown who reflected on ‘key thoughts and themes’ during the conference. Firstly, he made a distinction between violent communication and non-violent communication. An interesting sentence spoken out by Lord Ashdown on the first day, in which ‘second-generation Muslims’ in England were indirectly linked to terrorism, was used as an example of how otherization starts with language. ‘We should focus on inclusive language instead’, Brown underlined.
The need for cooperation between organizations is crucial to face the challenges of Europe, which are xenophobia and nationalism. Negative forces are also networking.
The values of forgiveness and love and the key insight that ‘behind every opinion, there is a human being’ are the leading thoughts here. Safe spaces are good, but ‘courageous spaces’ are maybe more important, in which people are encouraged to speak out. Peacemakers shouldn’t become a bubble, they should be working in the field they problematize.
With these words in mind, we said goodbye to each other, but we will meet again.