Human Rights In Europe? How Young People From All Over Europe Meet Up To Discuss Them In Strasbourg.

From the 19th till the 26th of February 2012, young and committed members of the European Coordination JECI-MIEC gathered from all over Europe in Strasbourg with one goal: to participate in the study session “Creating empowered Students in Human Rights through Integral Education”.

On Sunday evening, the halls of the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, France were filled with a lot of different languages. Excitement was in the air as young people of different ages, educational backgrounds, languages and countries (Croatia, Poland, Greece, Cyprus, France, Belgium, Germany, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina Spain and Portugal) mingled, using English as Lingua Franca to communicate over the langue boundaries. Their goal was to get to know the others, with whom they were to share days, rooms, coffee-breaks and, above all, their thoughts and ideas about Human Rights and how to make a difference in the education of and the fight for them.

Every day, some general input by some expert was given in the plenary. Afterwards, the plenary was always divided into smaller groups, in order discussed more in detail the distinct situations of Human Rights in the different countries and to analyze a specific topic/problem more in-depth. Afterwards, the results of the small groups were presented to the other participants in a plenary session. This gave everybody, notwithstanding their level of English, personal background etc. room to learn at their personal speed, contribute information, give their personal opinion or ask questions in a comfortable atmosphere. This way, everybody was not only able to learn about Human Rights in general, its situation all over Europe and so forth, but also to improve their English debating skills, represent their country, learn about others and strengthen the believe in a united Europe – in which all are different but equal.
One important pillar of the study session was the team-building in order to eliminate prejudices or stereotypes about other countries and their citizens and to form a strong group, ready to face together the challenges of Integral Human Rights’ Education in the XXI century. Therefore, every day some time was dedicated to games. Due to the successful team-building, during the whole week the participants continued talking about Human Rights even during breakfast, supper or dinner and in the various coffee breaks.
Work hard – play hard: After the official working program, every day the young people gathered till the early morning hours. Either during the international night, in which they introduced typical food, drinks, costumes, music, dances and idiosyncrasies of their countries or during the karaoke night, the game evening or the goodbye party.
A highlight of the week was the visit of the Council of Europe (CoE), followed by a free afternoon to discover in small transnational groups Strasbourg and to meet up again in the evening in a restaurant to enjoy the traditional dish of the region: the “tarte flambée”.
Of course, during the whole week, the spirit of the Lord was present. There was not only an opening and closing mass but every working day started and ended with a prayer, which lasted about 15 minutes.
On the final days, after having learned a lot of theoretical things about Human Rights, the European participants tried to find areas with overlapping topics in which they wanted to have a commune project to get active, afterwards. Also, they thought about how they wanted to present their organization at home the outcomes of the study session.

The week ended with a farewell-party. Till dawn, the young Europeans danced, chittered and chattered, and made already plans when and where to meet again some of the new-made friends.

(Stephanie Bendig, AKH Germany)

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