From Trenches to Bridges
Last year I had the honor of starting off my November at an international youth affairs conference in Strasbourg, France. The conference, From Trenches to Bridges brought together over 200 students of 43 nationalities to draft a Peace Charter for the European Parliament. The words of the charter are below:
We, the more than 200 students from 43 nationalities participating in the “From Trenches to Bridges” 2015 Youth Forum in Alsace, have been working together for a week on the history of World War I and the story of AFS, on learning to live together through intercultural learning, and on active citizenship. In intensive workshops, we have discussed the biggest challenges that we face in living together peacefully today, and what we, as active citizens and future leaders, can do to tackle these challenges. We are presenting our answers to you, the European Parliament, in the form of this multimedia Peace Charter.
The biggest challenge that we feel is keeping us from living together peacefully is the lack of understanding for others. Different understandings of the world can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings. However, the biggest factor for conflict lies in the lack of understanding of cultural and religious differences, giving way to stereotypes and racism. We experience a lack of empathy, which prevents us from seeing each other as fellow human beings.
Another big challenge that we see in the world is the ignorance about current events and global issues, and the lack of education regarding these topics. We are especially concerned about the lack of education regarding culture, religion, poverty, gender, racial and sexual inequality, as well as socioeconomic and environmental issues.
We are also concerned about corruption and the lack of compromise among the leaders of our communities, the abuse of power, and the negative consequences stemming from old conflicts that have yet to be resolved.
We feel that the path to tackle these issues lies in promoting tolerance and acceptance. We should be aware of and celebrate the differences between us, but at the same time also look past them to the things we all share. This can be done by increasing intercultural exchanges, by sharing spaces and a culture of open communication, and by building friendships with people of diverse backgrounds.
Another way to solve the challenges that we face is through education and raising awareness. We want accessible quality education for young people worldwide, and more school and community events to promote awareness about current world events and other important issues. We are also committed to sharing our own knowledge with others and making a conscious effort to educate ourselves. We also feel that it is important to question everything, to engage in critical thinking, and to look at things from all sides.
Finally, we need to actively engage and participate in our communities, and strive to become role models and leaders. We need to dare to create change, and remember that each and every one of us can make a difference in the world.
Here is the video version of the charter:
The photo is of our entire group gathered together in a European Parliament building.