07 July 2017

TC: „YOUth 4 Peace” - Bansko, Bulgaria

The training course “YOUth 4 Peace”, which took place in the lovely Bulgarian mountain resort of Bansko between 10-18 June 2017, aimed at covering different types of conflicts and consequently different ways of transforming conflicts through nonviolent actions. The overall emphasize of the seven days training was placed on fostering a constructive debate targeting some of the more pressing conflicts in Europe and on fueling cooperation in the youth field.

The Group of the European Youth for Change (GEYC) was represented at the project by three young people: Mădălina, Diana and Bogdan. The three of us were joined in Bansko by 27 other participants, with very different academic backgrounds, from nine other countries, mostly EU Member States, but also from Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

We learned about different types of violence (cultural, structural and direct), but also about nonviolence, as understood by Gandhi. For him Truth, Love and God expressed the same thing. Truth is what you stand up for; Love is how you meet the other party; God is what ties us together in one humanity.

A breath of fresh air had to be the so-called sharing night, meant to replace the customary intercultural evening. As such, we had to think of something that we would like to share on a personal level, in order to present it to the other participants. In this way, the focus was more on the individual, rather than the national.

The Romanian conflict case study revolved around the citizens’ initiative, already adopted by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, to change the definition of family in the country’s Constitution. We used the “conflict tree” framework model in order to analyse the root causes, the conflict itself and its effects on the individuals and the Romanian society at large.

During our day off, we had the chance to visit the Holy Rila Monastery, a Bulgarian Jerusalem, which, through the ages, has been a lighthouse and a place of wonderworking power and spiritual support to the Christian people of Bulgaria. On the same day, we visited the beautiful city of Blagoevgrad, the economic and cultural centre of southwestern Bulgaria and the home town of our hosts from the Alternativi International (AI) youth NGO. It all ended with a Bulgarian night which, among others, included a traditional Bulgarian wedding between two of the participants…

Another highlight of the training had to be the very heated fishbowl debate on topics relating to feminism, terrorism and the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. During one open space session, two of our team members brought their own contributions to the training’s success, with presentations on the Normative Power Europe concept and the impact of media activism respectively.

Last but not least, we had a thorough and useful presentation of the umbrella Erasmus+ Programme which in 2017 is celebrating its 30th anniversary. By giving substance to the motto of the European Union – united in diversity – the Erasmus+ Programme has helped millions of young people and education professionals to travel abroad, study, and gain experience and skills. We consider ourselves lucky to count among them and we urge you to be the next.