Wednesday, 30. August 2006
the day we lay down our weapons to fire our voices ...
by Rafael Milan Kropiunigg
Austrian participant of peacecamp 2006[]
Which prelude to peace would you choose? Troops marching into Lebanon with AK-47’s in front of their faces, or groups from ‘Peacecamp’ skipping into Vienna aeroport with nothing but peace in mind and mouths full of strong debate? Both troops and groups claim to have the same mission, the mission for peace. Now isn’t that ironic?

Before coming to Franzen I thought that politics would cause thunder and lighting to dance across the debating floor. As the days passed by, it dawned on me why politics was always secondary during group sessions, and furthermore, why political discussions never ended in bloody fist-fights, screeching, or scratching. Only after a while I realised that the purpose of four nationalities coming together in a village in the heart of Austria’s rural community, was not only to find out what could be done with Hezbollah, Israel, Syria, Iran, and so on, but rather to learn to simply co-exist together. The israeli’s, palistinian’s, austrians, and hungarian’s seemed to have packed no prejudice nor anger into their suitcases.

The particpiants from Israel represent a minority. They are a progressive segment of people within their society. On a freqeunt basis they have to deal with racism, prejudice, and violence. Debate seems like an abstract tool that gets them nowhere. However, these participants have learned that there is still hope, that there are still people who believe in peaceful negotiations. Some of them suggest they did not even know that there were people ‘from the other side’ sharing their peaceful thoughts.

Even though we sometimes kicked off group dynamic discussions by conversing about the role of pets in society, and such, we found that when the time was right we were also able to talk out human issues. These issues usually received 110 per cent patricipation level - this included topics such as women’s rights, social policy, globalization and a couple others. We all knew that any talks would not provide immediate answers, but rather that peaceful debate is a long-term method to solving complicated issues.

It is about “spreading the word,” one of our counselor’s said. This is true. A lot of people suggested that they had prejudice feelings towards ‘the other side’ before they joined Peacecamp, but left feeling no sense of hate or regret. We must spread this feeling across the world. I hope this is an inspiration to you all, and i hope that it will inspire you to give peace-orientated activities a shot. In reading this, I want you to realise that being biased will never bring solutions. If both sides victimize one another, or see themselves as victims, then there will be no solutions. It is rather paradox that in a camp full of adolescents I learned that we musn’t see life so black and white. We must learn to compromise with shades of grey in order to get something. Peace is never white. Although Peacecamp sounds very corny and ideological, I believe that the participants remained very realistic.

I believe that we must remain on, more or less, neutral ground to pave the road for mutual co-existance in this world. No matter what the situation. “To be neither actor nor victim,” is the camp slogan, but I believe that it is almost impossible to be neutral when you are personally affected. However, we can always try to see thing both both points of views through consuming a wide range of media and being open to different perspectives.

I have learned that peace starts with the youth. We must break the generation contract in which belief is passed down by our parents from generation to generation. Rather, we must be given the chance to make up our own minds through mingeling and debating with people our own age. We must come together in camps such as these and brainstorm. This is what I call the road to peace, and I think we are already on it.


- rafi k.

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