Youth seminar ‘Peacing it Together 2’
On the 30th anniversary weekend of the fall of the Berlin Wall 40 young people from Northern Ireland and Germany met in Leipzig to discuss themes surrounding peace beyond borders. The event focused on the historical and present-day significance of growing up in a divided society and the role of intercultural youth relations in building bridges.
The group met for the first time in Leipzig, having travelled from all over Germany and Northern Ireland. In preparation for the event, the young people had been asked to bring an object, photo or report that represented a divided society for them. Contributions included school and family photos, letters, watches and even passports. The group enjoyed discussing how everyday objects had different and deeper meanings within the context of their societies.
By bringing in our significant objects we shared stories of a divided society and discovered similarities in our seemingly different backgrounds. (Freya, Northern Irish participant)
Delving into history
Throughout the weekend, the group took part in thematic workshops, activities and discussions. These involved learning about the Fall of the Wall, alongside the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and drawing parallels between each countries’ experience of a post-conflict society. One of the workshops even involved role play, with the groups assigned characters and tasked with deciding whether to leave the GDR and escape to West Germany. Putting themselves in the shoes of others certainly gave a new perspective to this historical event!
Das Seminar war rundum ein volles Erlebnis. Vor allem Spaß gemacht haben mir die Aktivitäten in unserem Seminarraum, bei denen wir die Möglichkeit hatten, uns miteinander zu unterhalten (Beispielsweise verschiedene Gesprächsrunden zu den Themen, oder die “Überquerung des ‘No Man’s Land. (Julia, German participant)
Learning in Leipzig
Alongside the thematic workshops, the participants went on excursions throughout the weekend. These included:
• A guided tour tracing the footsteps of the events leading up to the peaceful revolution in Leipzig
• A trip to the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, a museum dedicated to documenting life in the GDR.
• A guided tour of the significant sights in Berlin.
Besonders gut hat mir der Besuch des Leipziger Museums “Zeitgeschichtliches-Forum” gefallen, da es dort viele Dinge gab, die aus der DDR stammten, was einem ein besseres Gefühl für die Zeit gab.“ (Lotte, German participant)
Presenting their findings
The weekend culminated with group presentations and a lively discussion on the subject of peace and a shared future, which included wider topics, such as world politics, the voting age and integrated education. The participants also created a wall of hope, collecting their thoughts and wishes for the future.
I learned a great deal regarding the nature of divisions in society, the way in which they affect the livelihoods of communities and how this has progressed over time. I enjoyed the range of viewpoints and sophisticated discussions which broadened my view of how others interpret the conflict and how best to move forward. (Sean, Northern Irish participant)
What happened next?
Since the seminar our participants have been sharing their findings with their communities, through articles in school newsletters and of course, word of mouth! The group have also kept in touch with each other, having formed firm international friendships during the weekend.