Articles From the February 1995 Unification News


First Teacher Training Workshop in Azerbaijan

by Christoph Kral

From November 14 to 18, 1994, we organized the first Teacher Training Seminar in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Up until now Azerbaijan has been a closed nation in the Caucasus, involved in an exhausting war with Armenia during the last five years. There never before has been a missionary of our movement in this nation.

I by myself started the mission in Armenia in Feb. '93-now there are 25 native brothers and sisters-and I always had a strong desire to start the mission in the enemy-nation of Armenia in order to lay a foundation for peace.

Some months ago, I made some contact with a professor of philosophy in Baku, who invited me to Azerbaijan. When our regional IW, Rev. Park, visited our region in October, I expressed again my desire to go to Azerbaijan. After praying about it, Rev. Park agreed and we went as the first missionaries to Baku. In the following days we could meet important leaders, like the adviser to the president for education affairs. Our friend, Dr. Rafik Alief, professor of philosophy and president of the international forum "Caucasian House," helped us a lot and we could find an agreement to organize a TTW for selected leaders in Baku.

The staff of the seminar consisted of William Haines, Enrique Ledesma, Christoph Kral, and Tamarigo, a sister from Georgia who worked as our translator.

The lecture hall was the conference room of the Ministry of Education in the government building. On the first day we had an official meeting with the Minister of Education, who introduced us to about 100 leaders. We started the seminar in the morning with a presentation about IEF and "My World and I." After lunch the program continued with about 35 selected leaders. For the participants as well as for the staff it was a new experience to teach a TTW in an Islamic nation. It was a challenge for us all to practice cooperative learning and to discuss topics such as "The Life of Jesus" and "Love Your Enemy." In the beginning some of the participants seemed to be quite surprised to become personally involved in the program by being asked to share their opinion or to take part in an exercise, but after a short "warm- up" period the seminar guests became very open and cooperative, showing a very beautiful, warm heart. The discussions became very active and the games and exercises full of creativity and new ideas. This three-day seminar was a time of spiritual transition to think about existing concepts and to find a new orientation. The participants as well as our staff could change and learn to understand each other better. We were especially grateful to find in Prof. Rafik Alief a true friend, who helped us to appreciate the greatness and beauty of the Ajerbaijanian culture and history.

One of the most moving experiences in Baku for me was the visit to the cemetery of the soldiers who died during the last five years of war. The first graves of honor were placed in a huge park but now there is no more park, only graves. Being responsible for Armenia I could feel as deeply the suffering of these two nations. There is no more space for hatred or resentments, there are only tears and suffering left. I saw young women kneeling and crying for their lost husbands, sisters crying for their brothers, daughters crying for their fathers; these are the same tears as the tears of Armenian women. Listen to me, you Armenian and Azerbaijanian mothers, wives and daughters: these are the same tears!

Loving both nations, this war goes right through my heart. How much God must hope that these nations find peace.

After the seminar we could meet with several leaders. An official commission was appointed to approve the "My World and I" program with the perspective of the future publication of an Azerbaijanian version of the book. We received an official letter of gratitude and support from the international forum "Caucasian House."

Our stay in Baku ended with deep feelings of sympathy with our new friends and with mutual promises to continue our cooperation. Thank you, our dear Azerbaijanian brothers and sisters; we will come back soon!

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