On the way to 2020 - John Myers, staff-member of SCI Germany

We present to you the second interview of the "On the way to 2020" series, where we learn more about some of the most influential SCI activists and what the year 2020 means for them

When was your first workcamp?

In August 1976, when I wanted to take part in a workcamp in the Soviet Union and ended up instead in a workcamp in Düsseldorf, Germany, sharing a room with two volunteers from Russia & one from the Czech Republic. During a period of three weeks we – 17 volunteers from 16 different countries - were collecting second-hand stuff donated by local people and selling it on the streets, in order to raise money for a home for disabled children who were victims of the Vietnam War.


The main threats to the future of human civilisation are climate change, nuclear weapons, global neo-liberalism, oligarchy, human rights violations, unequal distribution of resources etc. Overcoming these requires resistance on many different fronts in many different ways, but at the same time putting forward realistic alternative solutions or positive visions which would lead to a more peaceful, sustainable and just world. Governments often talk about eliminating the causes of people being forced to flee their homeland, but how many of them are actually substantiating their words with deeds?

When did you realize that peace is something important?

The horrors, loss of human life and destruction caused by two world wars radically affected my emotions and my way of thinking. Reading the biographies of people like Ghandi or Martin Luther King who spent their whole lives on the side of the oppressed working tirelessly to promote emancipation, liberty and social change with non-violent means was another crucial factor. At the time of the Cold War, I wanted to do something to help overcome the enemy images that served to divide people & nations. Peace is important because this is what the overwhelming majority of the world’s population want and it is the precondition for any form of human development in a particular region.


Can you describe your function (position) within SCI? What do you do?

For 25 years I was part-time coordinator of the international East-West Commission. Today I work full-time for SCI German Branch responsible for developing cooperation with the former Soviet Union, Central Asia, South-East Europe and Caucasus regions, but now and again I also coordinate projects in Europe on topics like No More War, gender equality or climate change.

What does the year 2020 mean to you?

The Centenary is obviously an important milestone for SCI, a chance to look back at our whole history and evaluate all the successes and failures, learn from these and develop fresh ideas to address new challenges and work out plans to keep the momentum going over the next hundred years.

How do you personally want to celebrate ‘2020’?

I think it is an important occasion to remember and honour all those individuals who helped to make our movement what it is today. I am particularly indebted to persons like Ralph Hegnauer, the former SCI President from Switzerland, or Alice Shackelford from SCI Italy, for consistently probing and criticising my work when I was coordinator of the East-West Commission, they helped me a lot to discover my own mistakes and failures, brought me down to earth and kept me on my toes. Of equal importance, however, is to look to the future and think how we can best overcome the “Divide and Rule”, “Scapegoat” or “Trickle Down” theories that have for so long served to divide people, communities and nations, promote hatred and antagonism and contrived to leave power in the hands of a privileged corporate and political elite.    

What are the strengths of SCI?

Diversity, Creativity, Deeds not only words, youthful Idealism and the belief that a peaceful, non-violent and emancipated world is possible. A bit of humour never goes amiss.

Can you tell about the founding of the so-called No-More-War team? 

The No More Team was created in 2010 based on a common feeling that some of the original aims and roots of SCI – Anti-Militarism, opposition to war, rejection of any forms of violence, international solidarity with victims of oppression & discrimination etc. had been gradually loosing importance in the volunteer world, in favour of technical efficiency, obtaining grants from institutions, simply having fun, not questioning the real aim or sense of what we were doing or sufficiently questioning the economic and political causes of injustice and war and taking concrete steps to combat these.


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