In Flanders Fields Study Camp

From the 23 to the 31st of August, a team of international volunteers and peace activists gather in Ypres, Belgium, in order to reflect on WWI and collectively find solutions to the current challenges that peace is facing in our world. Ypres occupied a strategic position during World War I, resisted Germany's invasion during 1914, witnessed some of the biggest battles in WWI and suffered a huge number of casualties and destruction.

The event involved 27 citizens, including 1 participant from Nederland, 14 participants from Belgium, 4 participant from Italy, 3 participants from Spain, 2 participants from Czech Republic, 1 participant form Ireland and 2 participants from Romania.

The aim of the event was to raise awareness about WWI and how this memory is built and transmitted; to increase the understanding of the Union, its history and diversity among participants; to refuse war as a mean to solve conflict and increase awareness about the importance of active participation; to stimulate participants in further investigating the proposed topics; to collect material for the final booklet; to create a public and interactive presentation of the journey (you can see the video below). The participants also exchanged experiences with participants of other memoric activities via Skype meeting.

The place where poison as was used for the first time in 1915, it's now known as the city of peace and conserves a very tight link to its past. It was a meaningful scenario for this Memoric Study Camp. The participants, coming from coming from various European countries brought with them lots of motivation and enthusiasm, rich experiences to share and creative ideas to build a peaceful future. The week started with some theoretical sessions about WWI, always with a special focus on personal stories and a human approach. The participants enjoyed a very interesting workshop and a visit in the local Museum "In Flanders Fields". Through different workshops and sessions, the participants became more and more familiar to war remembrance and collective memory. 

During the week they had the opportunity to get involved in different local initiatives: they met in first person the Ypres Peace Service, did their contribution to the artistic enterprise CWRM (Coming World Remember Me), and visited the Making Peace Exposition and the Last Post Ceremony. They also participated in "The Name List", a research directed by In Flanders Fields Museum that aims at creating an inclusive list with information about all victims of WWI in West Flanders, including the ones of the "enemies", bringing them back to history, regardless the nationality or the rank.

Knowledge sharing was also an important part of the Study Camp and all participants made a brilliant contribution, specially explaining WWI from different points of views. They present numbers, facts, and dates together with stories and literature, and some of them even shared family photos from relatives that fought during WWI.
More information about the whole research are available here: http://www.inflandersfields.be/en/civil-casualties


 

As the week was coming to the end, it was time to take action! After some practical tools were given to the participants (Non Violent Communication, Raising Awareness Actions and Theater of the Oppressed) they had to find the way to put peace into practice. Working together as a team and challenging their creativity they designed the final visibility action, which took place in Ypres' Grote Markt on Saturday 30 of August.

Combining different techniques the participants caught the attention of the locals and the tourists passing by and managed to create a perfect atmosphere for public debate and discussion on peace and war remembrance. A message was sent, loud and clear: war is never the answer, peace is always the way!

An article prepared by local participants is available (in Dutch) here: http://viavzw.be/memory-beyond-rhetoric