„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“

Together in Diversity: Youth work in the context of cultural and religious diversity

5th December 2010

From November 7th until November 13th the study session Together in Diversity took place in the European Youth Centre in Budapest. The study session was organized under responsibility of YMCA Europe (Christian Orientation Group) and Conference of European Churches.

Together in diversity - photo 01The aim of the session was to build the capacity of working in the context of cultural and religious diversity on local, regional and European level among young people, and, to raise awareness and understanding of the richness of this diversity.

The participants were youth leaders with interest in the subject, who can implement and multiply the knowledge and skills. They are persons with a voice on any organizational level. The session was organized from a Christian perspective, but open for people from all kinds of organizations and religions. Selection criteria were age (18-30), involvement in youth work, experience and motivation. The selected participants were from different cultural and denominational backgrounds. They appeared to be very disciplined and inclusive on social level; involved, interested and ready to learn a lot. During the session they shared their experiences in daily life and work, their beliefs, skills, tools, expectations and hopes. The program offered a range of educational methods and gave necessary information.

The main conclusions and recommendations following from this session are:

Participants discovered, during the week that shared identities on general level, can differ on a deeper, more personal level. This helped them to find a need for knowledge and understanding about each other, their contexts and the implications for their organization.

The educational methods helped participants to learn more about themselves and each other and provided them with knowledge and tools for their own youth work.

The information on ecumenical and/or European organizations and developments helped them to understand the issues on this level more and gave them an insight on the organizational structures and where they possibly fit themselves (or their organizations).

The gained skills and knowledge should be used by their own local, national and European organizations. CEC and YMCA Europe should keep track on these people and offer them possibilities to use their skills and knowledge and help them to develop this further.

Program outline

Together in Diversity - photo 02To keep track on the daily experiences of participants, reflection groups of five participants and one team member were formed. Those groups shared their opinions, thoughts and ideas amongst each other and each group prepared one morning devotion and one daily report. Evaluations were done in the reflection groups and in plenary.

NOV 7

In the evening of November 7, the evening program helped to feel at home by explaining the rules, the program and by getting to know each other. 

NOV 8

Together in Diversity - 03After devotions the official opening took place by a speech of EYCB deputy director Balint Molnar. He spoke about the role of ecumenism in development of the European youth work and promotion of values of CoE and the DYS. CoE and DYS work in the field of diversity, inter-religious dialogue, youth work practices of religious based youth organizations. The organizing organizations (CEC, COE, YMCA Europe) introduced themselves. The second part of the morning was reserved for games and methods to get to know more about each other (names, cultural and religious back grounds). After a speech and discussion about the ecumenical movements, participants were asked to find information and make presentations about John Mott, his biography, key contributions to ecumenical thinking and his influence in the modern ecumenical movement. The evening program contained more games and music and drinks.  

NOV 9

Together in Diversity - 04After devotion there was a bible study. We read some texts in plenary and discussed in smaller groups about the meaning, existing ideas and relevance for our daily lives. In plenary the differences and agreements were brought together. The second half of the morning was spend with the method of ‘intercultural train’. A game for confrontation, compromise and understanding. After lunch participants spent their afternoon in Budapest and took pictures of ‘religion’ (buildings, persons, …) in town. The cultural evening contained presentation, food, drinks, dances and games from all different countries and organizations.

NOV 10

Together in Diversity-06After devotions this day started with the ‘onion exercise’ to explore the role of culture and religion in individual live and in group identities. Conclusions were brought together in a presentation on identity. After the coffee break we continued with the question on the effects of particular identities in our home countries (creative method). Three YMCA’s shared their experiences in dealing with different identities by giving a presentation: Lilla Ureczky from KIE (Hungary), Siobhan Finnegan from Lurgan YMCA (Northern Ireland) and Rushid Mahmud and Martina Stojcevska from YMCA Macedonia (FYROM). In smaller groups and in plenary we considered the origins of the situations, the challenges for the YMCA’s and how they (can) face them. In plenary we draw the perfect youth worker: what competences does this imaginary person need, what does this mean for us? The evening was spent with a dinner out in town.

NOV 11

Together in Diversity-07In the morning we had a devotion that inspired to make our individual contribution towards inclusiveness and cooperation. After the devotion we welcomed guest speaker Nikos Kosmidis (Echos) who delivered a presentation on the importance of Ecumenical Movement and the role of youth in ecumenical bodies, particularly the World Council of European Churches and the Council of European Churches. A question answer session contributed to the understanding of the ecumenical message and movement, as well as the challenges it currently faces, particularly in regards to youth involvement. After the coffee break a simulation game was organized. The “Appletown” YMCA and the Q&A session with its “community members” reflection was facilitated in plenary.

Together in Diversity-08After lunch another simulation game was organized. Four groups were tasked to present an ideal inclusive YMCA in the forms of a “tale”, a “TV news report”, a “talk show” and a “one day in the organization” scenarios. Each group staged their creative presentations and reflected on them afterwards.

As a result of reflection sessions of both simulations some characteristics/criteria for an inclusive organization were developed, while by the end of the study session each of us had an opportunity to diagnose our YMCA against the developed criteria.

NOV 12

Together in Diversity-09After devotions we had a plenary presentation on YMCA Europe: the Christian aspect and issues raised by that, and youth participation (YES group). A discussion on representation in Ecumenical Movement followed. Why are young people addressed with prejudices, and what can we do about it? We spoke about involved of YMCA in CEC, structures of ecumenical youth involvement, and representation of youth in decision making bodies on European level. The second part of the morning and first part of the afternoon we had an ‘open space’ with several discussions and workshops:

  • Presentation on fund raising
  • Sharing tools for local youth work
  • What does / can it mean to be a Christian organization (‘C’ of YMCA)
  • Sharing ideas for the Prague festival 2013 (and watching the festival video)  

Together in Diversity-10After that we had a short session on how to evaluate our own organizations on inclusiveness (left from Nov 11). The rest of the afternoon we spent on evaluations: first in the reflection groups and after that in plenary with different methods. The afternoon ended with handing out certificates (to each other with saying some nice words) and thanking each other for the contributions.

In the evening we ended the session with a final devotion, followed by a party in the disco.

NOV 13

Departure day. 

Council of Europe

Author/Source: Text: Marloes Meijer / Pictures: Johanna Nyberg, Marloes Meijer

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