Unification News for June 2000

IRFF in Romania

"Implementing the Culture of Peace"
by John O'Connor and Massimo Trombin

From the 7th to the 16th of April, an IRFF project was held in Romania under the theme "Implementing the Culture of Peace". This project is a follow-up of last years IRFF Archeological project in Slovakia, organized under the banner of "Culture of Peace", Heritage and Friendship (for more details see the IRFF-Europe web page at www.irff-europe.org.).

The purpose of this years program was to create the basis of a public debate involving the people, community leaders and the local schools with themes focusing on Religious Freedom, Human Rights and Social Service.

We left Luxembourg for Romania on April 5, 2000 for a splendid trip through Germany, Austria and then Hungary. We drove 10 hours to Vienna to stay overnight and then left early the next morning to complete our journey. After traveling another 16 hours, with two hours of snow storm, and a zillion slow moving trucks, we arrived at Brasov, Romania. We found the "beautiful" Codeanu Hotel at 3 AM! ("beautiful" because they have beds there!)

The "We" who traveled together were Massimos son Adriel, Johns son Sebastian, and Paul Frank with his daughter Jacqueline.

We had a very rewarding and productive time in this project. Organizations co-sponsoring with IRFF were ICRF (International Coalition for Religious Freedom) and RYS (Religious Youth Service). Organizers for the event were Mr. Massimo Trombin, Europe IRFF coordinator, and Mr. Paul Frank, Vice-President of IRFFLuxembourg and coordinator for ICRF in Europe. The on-site directors were Mr. Trombin and Mr. Mario Ferrario, Romanian IRFF President and Catalina Bobocea, IRFF Executive Director.

The usual policy of IRFF is to work in cooperation with local NGO's and in this case it was the Scouts in Brasov, lead by Mr. Marius Rosu. The Scouts helped to organize the details of the project, involving all the locals and assisted in general affairs. By this effort, the local schools, NGO's, political leaders and media became more and more involved and interested in the programs.

The two outside activities we did together were clearing trash from the mountainside, the local reservoir and park, and secondly planting trees in barren areas.

The project started officially with a public conference coordinated by ICRF, attended by more than 200 people and 40 VIPs. Mr. Paul Frank presented a statement paper outlining the need for more education on Human Rights and Religious Freedom and Service. Three other panelists responded: Prof. Costantin Cuciuc, Dr. Cristian Ciochirca and Mr. Massimo Trombin, followed by the questions and answers from the public.

The press was also present throughout the project. Four newspaper articles were published by the local newspapers "Transilvania Express" and the "Gazeta". As well, four local news channels and one national TV covered the project.

The program for the 40 IRFF volunteers started with Dr. Sherry Hartman representing RYS International (Religious Youth Service). She gave us a 2-day orientation program, following the RYS model. We discussed what happens when we "process" an activity or experience in our daily life. That is, after we have experienced something, we reflect on what we did. Next, we make conclusions on what we learned from that experience. And lastly, we then apply what we learned to our life.

We worked in teams to "envision" an ideal environment. We then drew this vision on a large piece of paper with our teammates. This gave us a sense of unity and appreciation for the different views of creating an ideal world.

As well, we studied three major ways in which we interact with others in our environment. Do you know if you are a St. Bernard, a Lion, or a Fox? Put simply, these three animal natures represent three distinct interactive styles: supportive and flexible (St. Bernard); independent and directive (Lion); factual and calculating (Fox). Each style has a way to bring success in any endeavor. We each discovered our basic interactive style by answering a questionnaire. We discovered that our strengths become a weakness when we over emphasize them. We sought to understand how to find the balance in using our strengths in working together with different approaches/styles.

One of the internal purposes of this project was to involve representatives of the Second Generation and give them an experience of in-service learning and cooperation with other youth organizations. Most of the participants came from HARP-Europe. Participating from the second generation were from: (Germany) Inshunor Joergensen, Christine Sattler, Tanja Schmidt, Gabor Kortvelyessy, and Boris Seewald; (France) Christophe Vieira, Diane Chaillie, C. Tavallo, Jason Outrequin, Christophe Penhard; (Luxembourg) Jacqueline Frank, Sebastian OConnor and Adriel Trombin; (England) Miriam Zaccarelli; (Italy) Donata Farrerio; and (Korea) Jang Jun Young. Including all the other volunteers about fifteen different nationalities were represented on site. Also, the age of the volunteers ranged from 64 to 12 years. And like last years project, the approach was to see this as an "Experimental Laboratory" by all the volunteers, in which all these different nationalities and ages were looking for a way to experience the "Implementation of the Culture of Peace"!

During the morning in the week, Mr. Trombin went with a delegation from the IRFF volunteers, and visited three High schools to give the IRFF-worldview slide presentation and to explain the project for the city of Brasov. From those meetings, a follow-up project was initiated by which IRFF will help the coordination of the School's Parents Association in the city of Brasov. Also, another follow-up project was implemented by providing the Scout office with a computer and an internet connection for one year. They will then be able to start some local service and business that will help provide some funds to the youth association. Also, two of the scouts will come to the next July IRFF Archeological project in Slovakia to be part of the staff.

As each day passed, more people would come to either help or to observe what we were doing. Eventually, about 500 children from the local schools participated in the trash cleaning and tree planting. It was a grand site to see hordes of children brandishing sticks and bags to pick up trash on the steep mountainside. As well, even quite small children were not afraid to attempt swinging the heavy pick-ax to dig a hole for a tree planting. The interest was high. I saw a very heartwarming scene at the tree-planting site. There were all of 10 boys encircled to witness the planting of one tiny tree! It was a cooperative venture. With our IRFF group, school children and other volunteers, we planted around 15,000 trees! The forest service said their goal is to continue and plant 25,000 more trees.

We also picked up many tons of trash on the mountain. On the first day, I was walking along the mountainside path to move to another area to clean. On my way, I passed near the number one "Green Man". We used the term "Green Man" in reference to forest rangers (Forest Protection Association) who wore green work suits. This number one Green Man was very excited. A large man, he put his arm around me, gave a big smile and then spoke briskly in French. Not knowing quite what he said, I at least understood that he was very happy that we were there to do this project! If he became anymore excited, I thought he might kiss me! He was big like a mountain but really a very gracious man.

In addition to the days activity of mountain cleaning and tree planting, each night there was an activity or presentation. On the third night, John OConnor gave a talk entitled: "Family: Center Piece for World Peace". His talk focused on the dynamics of the family as a place to learn harmony with others and to respect differences in people, therefore, establishing a tradition of peaceful relationships. He encouraged the young participants to learn what true relationships are and to discover and support real love in their families. Following the talk, participants were asked to brainstorm in their teams to create a service project for their family or community. On one evening we had group singing by nationality and on another night we had a lively "Cultural Evening" with skits presented by teams.

On the last day, Saturday, we traveled for a cultural trip and visited the "Dracula Castle"! To the disappointment of some, the local tour guide assured us that the infamous Count Dracula in the movies never existed in Romania! After our tour through the castle, we gathered at the base of the mountain for a hearty barbecue and a group photo. With beautiful scenery surrounding, we wrote reflections of our experience. The project was closed with a banquet and a "Certificate of Appreciation" was presented for each participant from the sponsoring organizations.

Upon reading the positive reflections from the IRFF participants; seeing the involvement of the local youth, the NGO's and the schools; watching the political leaders coming to visit the work site for a photo by the press; and with the participation in the ICRF-IRFF-RYS conference, we can confidently say that the goals of the project were fully achieved. We hope that this project will contribute in Romania for the promotion of democratic principles and programs.

Special thanks to the following: to Mr. Paul Frank for a generous donation to cover a significant portion of the project expenses; to Mario and Luciana Farrario for helping to organize in advance of the project; to Catalina Bobocea for steadfastly attending to the general affairs and being the in-house doctor; to the "Green Men" for giving us guidance and supplying us with materials; and to the Brasov Scout group for their genuine efforts to support us in the project goals.

John O'Connor is Abel NM-Luxembourg and Massimo Trombin is Cain NM-Luxembourg and IRFF-Europe coordinator.

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