"Youth workers against extremism and xenophobia" - Training Course in Vienna
In this day and age, extremism and discrimination are topical issues for the international community. The events in the field of immigration, public security and the media information have highlighted the need to tackle simplistic opinions, prejudices, stereotypes and logical fallacies that lead to a more volatile climate and the strengthening of the most extreme wings of the political scene.
From September 11th to 18th, three of our interns had the opportunity to participate in the project "Youth Workers Against Xenophobia and Extremism", representing YEU and Belgium. The activities were held in Vienna and were organized by Ani Janyan and Erik Ghazaryan of Zeit! Raum, with the training support of Vitaly Volodchenko.
During the course participants from countries that experience difficult political and social situations such as Spain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria were able to share the views and experiences regarding their home country.
In a specific session each national team had to explain critical issues in its country: the Austrian presented the extremist aspects of Austrian history, the Dutch team talked about the violation of human rights as a reaction to real or imaginary security issues, the Italian and Spanish participants did a general presentation of the relation between social issues and populism in their respective countries. Finally, the representatives of Greece and Belgium addressed the existence of far-right parties like Golden Dawn and Vlaams Belang.
Non-formal education methods allowed the participants to empathize with people from different but similar cultures and to bond since day one, an aspect that proved to be very important all through the training as it allowed a real cooperation and understanding among the group. Moreover, the structure of the program was conceived as a flow of activities of increased depth into the topic, making it easier for the participants to engage in the discussions and give active contributions to the project.
The most touching moment was reached during the final dinner when, in a Turkish restaurant, the participants had the pleasure to feel the emotions triggered by popular songs played by a Greek with a lira. The melodies turned out to be the symbol of the sharing of traditions and popular culture between people from Greece and Turkey, and were a perfect example of the project climate and the importance of mutual exchange and understanding.