Unification News for September and October 1999

IRFF project ‘Culture of Peace’ held Slovakia

by Massimo Trombin and Magda Balentova

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defense of peace must be constructed." This principle, found in the preamble of the UNESCO constitution, was the motto of the first day of the IRFF international volunteers camp. The theme of the camp was "The Culture of Peace" and it was organized in Slovakia from 16th to 25th July 1999.

26 volunteers representing 12 different countries and three continents gathered in the historical village of "Sahy" situated on the Slovak - Hungarian border. One of the purposes of their gathering was to join local professionals in the archaeological research of a medieval monastery located in Sahy.

This was also a pilot project for IRFF, an event with emphasis on the Friendship characteristics of IRFF. The cultural element of the program and the project "Culture of Peace" fulfilled the goal of more emphasis of cross-cultural friendship. The IRFF staff, together with the participants, can be called a laboratory for an experiment in friendships across cultural boundaries, and from the outcome we can safely say that it was a success.

The days of the camp where divided into several sections. The first two days focused on orientation and education, after which followed 5 days of work, and the last day was reserved for reflection and the closing ceremony. On Friday evening at the opening ceremony, welcoming remarks and a presentation on the topics of the history of the Sahy area and UNESCO works in Slovakia was given by Ms Dvorakova. She is the Vice-director of the Slovak National Institute of Monuments Preservation and a member of the UNESCO National Commission in Slovakia.

The first two days we held the "IRFF Orientation Program" educational part of the camp with lectures, presentations, teamwork and discussions. During the two-day orientation the focus was to create unity and harmony among the participants. The themes World Peace, Conflict Resolution, IRFF Worldview, and How to Do a Project created a high level of interest and involvement from the participants. The final reflections by the volunteers confirmed this accomplishment.

Mr. Massimo Trombin, European IRFF coordinator and the President of IRFF Luxembourg, led these topics with the participation of Magda Balentova, Director of IRFF Slovakia. In particular, she gave a report about the "World Congress of UNESCO Clubs" held in Jekaterinburg, Russia, which she attended from 9th to 13th June, as one of the representatives of Slovakia. In her presentation she introduced the vision of UNESCO and the UN concerning the "Culture of Peace" and the Manifesto 2000 Lunch by the UNESCO.

As part of the orientation we also had an introduction of the site we would be working at and explanations about the purpose of archaeological research, given by Mr. Tibor Palinkas, archaeologist and local museum director. A lecture on "Human Rights and Religious Freedom" was given by Mr. Peter Zoehrer, journalist and Human Rights activist, and Director of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom in Austria. Together with a presentation given by Judge Paul Frank, Vice-president of IRFF Luxembourg and ICRF Europe coordinator, on the topic "Law and Conscience", this closed the first and second day of the orientation program. IRFF Europe will publish a booklet about this two-day orientation.

From Monday to Friday we worked at the site. The volunteers were divided into 5 different teams, each with a team leader and assistant. Each team, through a ballot, received their name and became the representative of one continent. For a total of 6 hours a day we worked on archaeological research (with breaks for small refreshments and lunch), and every evening a different program was organized.

The work was hard but very exciting. On the first day of digging we discovered graveyards and the remains of some buried people. For the first time in an archaeological camp in this location, we found some precious remains. Massimo Trombin himself discovered a bronze lady cover-head from mediaeval times and a pearl and was proclaimed "Indiana Jones of the day". This really inspired us to discover more. During the week of work we found several more skeletons of men, women and children.

The Oceania team discovered a mediaeval arched door frame carved in Gothic style and they became the "Indiana Jones of the day". Also the African team found the medieval foundation of a monastery and this help the archaeologist to better understand the original structure of the building. Catalina and Jacquiline found the most important discovery, 10 minutes before the closing of the site, on Friday. It was a coin that will allow the precise age of the site to be estimated.

The evening program was highly varied. A lecture on Family and Ethics was given, as well as a presentation of the "Ipel Union" by executive director Mr. Wollent. The union is a local NGO that is a member of IUCN, working in the region between Slovakia and Hungary on issues of environment and peace. A presentation by the "National AIKIDO Association" representatives followed by an interesting discussion on the topic of "Martial Arts and World Peace" was organized in the public gymnasium in Sahy, and more than 90 people participated. A successful evening, with Medieval Music, was held in a local church, presented by a professional medieval musical group, the "Musa Ludens" from Slovakia. Through this they also became co-sponsors of the project, together with the Aikido group, because they donated those performances freely to the IRFF participants and the people of Sahy.

The last day, after the Motto of the day, which was coordinated by Alain Roulet (director of IRFF France) all week, and breakfast, the participants had time for reflections and for presenting their suggestions and comments about the project. This is always very precious information for the organizers, because this kind of feedback really helps to improve the standard and result of future projects. The rest of the day was spent on a trip to "Banks Stiavnica", one of the official UNESCO towns of Slovakia. There the visit to the local ancient mine moved the hearts of the participants when they thought of the suffering and hardship of the people that worked there in the past under incredible difficulties. The day ended with a Cultural Evening where each team, and some talented participants, performed for the enjoyment of all the other volunteers. At the conclusion of the Cultural Evening, IRFF Diplomas were distributed to each one of the participants. And to close officially, the whole group stood in a circle and, with strains in their voices, thanked each other for the wonderful and enriching experience that they had gone through together in this project. A farewell party was then held for all of them.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project was that the age of the participants ranged from 11 to 65, so the interaction amongst them created a very unique atmosphere and much excitement. The theme of the Culture of Peace was commented freely by the participant in a white big cloth posted on the wall and the desire to see a peaceful world become reality was expressed clearly in a spontaneous written comment: "It is now time for peace to come." This was the desire and will expressed by all of the IRFF volunteers who participated in the project and we hope that this program will help and contribute to the fulfillment of man's dream: A World of Peace.

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