Yarim Conference at Etty Hillesum Center in Deventer

Having in mind the war in Syria where many innocent people suffer, the hidden wounds that new comers from various (post) conflict countries need to bear, the increased poverty in disadvantaged multi cultural neighborhoods were young people from various culturestry to make a life in Europe, the massacres on innocent people in theatres, train stations, mosques, the increased hate news against the Islam and the upcoming anti semitism in Europe resulting in murder of two people, we organised an interreligious dialogue in the Etty Hillesum Center in Deventer on October 17, 2019.

Etty Hillesum was a young talented jewish woman during the Second World War who searched always “for love in times of deep hate”. Etty Hillesum center is situated in an old Synagogue in Deventer, the city where Etty Hillesum lived. Nowadays the center is a meeting place where the people of Deventer want to give “the history back to the place in the spirit of Etty Hillesum”.

So we couldn’t find a better place to launch the YARIM project. YARIM project is enabling youth workers to deal constructively and pedagogically with the (inter)religious dimension in our multicultural Europe which is impacting the lives of young people too.

The project is about understanding religion in the lives of young people, understanding the process of growth and development of young adolescents and their strengths and vulnerability. It also offers strategies to deal with the risk factors that young people face and to prevent them from making destructive choices. It is about what religion and fundamentalistic religions have to do with this. It is about radical youth and the process of radicalisation towards violence radicalisation. It offers strategies how stakeholders around the young people could act upon this in a pedagogical and constructive way. And it is about dialogue.

The value of dialogue and debate for personal and social change while seeking for a common ground and respect for diversity.

To celebratethe launch of this very important YARIM project we have invited stakeholders from various institutions such as women’s groups, youth workers, social workers, representatives of the mosque, the staff of Etty Hillesum center, the police and students and teachers in the sector social work. Youth workers and youth from Antwerp, Amsterdam, Amersfoort and The Hague, who already participated via IDEA and OPEN UP! let youth be heard, in community oriented debates and dialogues,attended the meeting to share their best practices.

The afternoon was too short. But it was fantastic to see how the methods helped to develop good recommendations when you aim to prevent youth communities, neighborhoods, from interreligious conflicts.

The conclusions were bold and practical; dialogues, such as the ones that YARIM project promotes, need to take place all over Europe in neighborhoods, schools, sport clubs, everywhere were diverse people meet “in the veins of the society”.

The aim of the dialogue should be to promote common understanding and to seek a common ground, to create space to listen to each other and to understand the deeper meaning of people’s values and beliefs, rituals. The dialogue also needs to seek for meaning behind superficial facts and expressions of religion. And they mentioned the importance of the context where conflicts or dialogues happen, in a multicultural neighborhood where people are used to diverse expressions of religion, or does it take place in a white neighborhood where a family with Moslim background moves in.

Participants also mentioned the importance to understand the hidden factors in people’s life such as poverty, trauma, loneliness. What this does with people regardless of religion and how negativity because of their religion can deepen the fear, pain and loneliness. The participants promoted also how the dialogue should be organised; with various stakeholders, in an open and transparent way, with a constructive attitude but also honest and critical. The dialogue needs to take place in a spirit of active listening. All elements promoted by the YARIM Toolkit and the YARIM project offers extra exercises to develop skills among youth workers to moderate and facilitate those dialogues and debates.

The momentum in the Etty Hillesum center was the end of the YARIM project, but the start of a bigger and diverse community that wants to continue with the dialogues and debates in neighborhoods that IDEA and now OPEN UP! Let youth be heard, are organising. They join this train of people of dialogue and love with the Etty Hillesum center as a source of inspiration for continuation!

After the meeting, a lady stood up and said softly, “we forgot to mention one thing: We have to give and take in our lives, we need to be genuinely tolerant to each other, giving each other space to live a dignified life without harming the other one”. Those wise words go beyond any skill, tool kit, curriculum, but more important is the message that space and time to meet each other is important to “bring love in the air”. It helps to contribute to Etty Hillesum message:

“One thing is for sure, we all need to help to increase the storage of love on earth”. The YARIM project and all participants in YARIM meeting on 17th of October 2019, contributed to this hope of Etty Hillesum.

The Yarim project can be found on http://yarimproject.eu/the-project/

The project is supported by Erasmus plus #YARIM