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Ecumenical project report, internship programme 2007

Sina-Marei Degenhard took part in the WCC internship programme 2007. During their stay in Geneva each intern is expected to plan an ecumenical project to implement in his or her home context upon return. The report Sina-Marei Degenhard wrote about the project she implemented in Germany is published as an example.

13 May 2008

WCC Internship Programme 2007

 

Sina-Marei Degenhard took part in the WCC internship programme 2007. During their stay in Geneva each intern is expected to plan an ecumenical project to implement in his or her home context upon return. The report Sina-Marei Degenhard wrote about the project she implemented in Germany is published as an example.

Project name: EVA2008

Background

The first EVA Youth Festival took place from 9-12 May, 2008 (Pentecost) in Dresden/ Eastern Germany in and around the famous "Frauenkirche". The men and women aged 16-28 years who participated came from different church/ denominational (mainly inner protestant) backgrounds. The festival's theme "Am I my brother's keeper?", according to the bible passage in Moses 4:9, addressed the issue of "Responsibility for the other" - starting from the point of an individualistic characterised society we are living in. Therefore, EVA consciously asked for the "brother, neighbour, the other and for our responsibility for him/her and also for the community and the world". EVA wanted to show - by providing space to present projects and to lead workshops - that youth already take over responsibility. Those, who are not committed yet, could get a clue of what can be done and they might have been encouraged to get involved.

Organizers and partners of EVA2008 were:

Though this church has a Roman Catholic name ("church of our Lady" referring to Mary) it is - due to the reformation - evangelical Lutheran it calls itself officially "an open church" whose message is: "Building bridges, living reconciliation, strengthening faith". They regularly celebrate the Taizé liturgy of the "light of resurrection", English speaking Anglican and ecumenical worship services.

The EKD is a fellowship of Lutheran, Reformed and United regional churches, agreeing on a boundless common Eucharist despite their different confessions.

This is the umbrella organisation of 36 evangelical youth associations, representing 1.2 million young people.

Within this framework, I planned and led a workshop on "world trade".

Objectives

The overall objective of the festival was to strengthen faith, inspire something in youth so that they are getting committed for peace & reconciliation, social justice and integrity of creation. Young people of the church should be encouraged.

Thus the workshop is to be seen as a part of the whole, which hopefully helped:

a) to raise awareness and

b) to reach the goals.

Working methods

Originally the team was supposed to be made of two or three persons (including me). But it turned out that I planned and implemented the workshop by myself.

Since a friend of mine who has, among other things, a lot of expertise in Fair Trade, was not there, I focused on the publications from WCC AGAPE in order to prepare myself and the workshop and to hand out materials (thanks to Alexandra Pomezny) for those participants who were interested in further information. I also prepared the following bible study which I wanted the participants to reflect on:

Woe to you who make unjust decrees and who write oppressive laws, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil and that you may make the orphans your prey.

Isaiah 10:1-2

  • How big is our complicity "[...]to rob the poor of their rights[...]"?

  • Do we find ways to distribute the goods adequately?

  • How are we and our mission to care for justice strengthened by God?

  • Do we find ways to be our poorer brother's & sister's keeper?

Description & implementation of plans

The workshop was implemented on Saturday, 10 May 2008, 11-13 hours.

With its theme the workshop belonged to the particular topic centre "EVA fights - for open space and justice".

The connection between the workshop theme and the biblical story of Cain and Abel and responsibility for the other was established in a discussion due to questions about, e.g. Inequality, justice, being a keeper, building conditions in order to be able to act responsibly.

After everybody got a name tag, I started with an introduction of myself, told the order of the workshop and clarified why fair/world trade has something to do with Christian faith and the responsibility of Christians. And when it is seen from this perspective, then it is important to be our brothers' keepers in economic relations(as mentioned above I referred to the WCC Programme AGAPE). In order to be interactive and to make the theme understood, we played the World Trade Game which I know from my WCC Internship 2007.

At first, there was a lot of confusion because not every group (= country) had the same or enough materials (= resources) to produce the different paper figures (= products). After awhile, the first groups started trading with their resources. Two others started quickly with their production, ignoring everybody else who was interested in trade. Some groups experience the consequence of having problems to get support from other participants, when they would have needed it. Finally the richer country (less people, not fast enough in production) made up of two participants, asked the poorer one (many people, not enough technical tools for production) for workers.

Another country with poor options became creative - they used their country nameplate as ruler and a fourth country asked the game leader (me) for development aid. Accusations of cheating, insulting and even degrading came up as well.

The closing discussion about the un-fairness of the game, parallels to the real world, observed difficulties to change a system, each person's own feelings and actions was calm but with many interesting contributions:

  • Poorer countries had to bargain for something - a longer time than richer countries

  • Poorer countries could have created an alliance among themselves but each of them was looking for a stronger, powerful partner

  • One mistake can lead to severe consequences and problems

  • Rich country gave away technical tools (to poor country) when they were less worthy or even useless

  • "As long as our production was high enough, we didn't look around us"

  • "Those who own a lot, are actually sitting on it and become greedy"

  • Organizations/ institutions are not independent from each other

  • Development aid or charity is not a solution if things are just given without knowing what is needed (you need scissors, you get a ruler).

  • Those who have the power, make the rules - for their benefit!

  • Feeling of powerlessness, disappointment and frustration for others. At the end people talked about (existing) ways how to handle the current situation and pointed out examples they heard about (micro financing, "no" to dumping-price products).

Reflection

Actually I hoped to have one more person to implement this workshop. It was difficult to be involved actively in the game (as the world bank), to intervene (give secret hints, more resources at some points, change product prices) and to observe the game and take notes at the same time. Sometimes I was afraid to lose the overview and consequently the control over the game's development especially because there were about 25 participants divided into 6 groups (15 to 30 people could sign up for this workshop). But luckily it went well and people realized quickly that there are unfair structures in the game and I was happy about some creative ideas and ways they acted. When it came to the closing discussion, I was surprised that it took them a long time to talk about their feelings during the game so that I had to start with pointing out some observations I made and take up some sentences ("I heard India doesn't like us" etc.). Once we got into the discussion it was good. I had the impression that for most of them it was the first time to get in touch with the workshop's theme. Through its interactive and practical implementation the theme was understandable and finally made the participants sensitive and conscious for the structures and systems concerning trade. Unfortunately I could not make the planned bible study because there wasn't enough time. Anyway, the participants already had one in the morning and were not in the mood for a second. But all in all I was very relieved - everything went well and I got positive feedback. They saw that our action in taking over responsibility is needed.