International Peace Seminar in Verdun

From the 11th to the 14th of November 2015, the Memory beyond Rhetoric International Seminar took place in Verdun, France. The seminar was organized with together with the SCI International Archives and other peace and international voluntary service organizations, as CCIVS, Union Pacifiste de France, the Quakers and Accion d’Urgance Internationale. It focused on the growth of the pacifist movement in Europe, from WWI up to now and analysed the meaning of pacifism and volunteering for peace today. The aims of this event were to increase reflection on Peace and participation and volunteering now and in the past; to collect collect material for the final booklet; to raise awareness about the role citizens can and should play in Europe and for an improved world; to strengthen connections and exchange best practices between civil society organizations; and to raise awareness about roots of present Europe.

The event involved 31 European citizens, including 2 participants from Italy, 1 participant from Finland, 1 participant from Germany, 1 participant from Catalunya (Spain), 2 participants from Belgium, 2 participants from Romani, 1 participant from Greece, 1 participant from Czech Republic, 1 participant from Ireland, 1 participant from Bulgaria, 1 participant from Netherlands, 16 participants from France, 1 participant from Poland. The event benefited from the participation of special guest from India and Indonesia (experienced peace activists) and from Switzerland (representing the International Archive of SCI).

We are gathering the last day in Verdun, where the international SCI seminar takes place in the framework of the Memoric-project. It was following a mini-workcamp in the World Peace Center in Verdun. Young and older activists met together in the seminar to remember the WW1, deconstructing the myth of a great war and soldiers as heros. For young and old it was important to recall the history of SCI and pacifism and look for ways how to encounter new challenges in the recent and future time. Members of SCI, but also representatives of CCIVS, Union Pacifiste, Quakers and Action d'Urgence International brought their experience forward.

We had interesting discussions about peace in modern times and how this should be communicated. There was a general feeling it was time for reflection, without forgetting the actual deeds and also new forms of communication/commitment. Some members brought the concept of slow peace forward, meaning that we should act (again) from a vision and not be reactive on modern developments. An idea was even forwarded for a SCI-reflection group.
An interesting question was forwarded if Pierre Ceresole would be happy with SCI nowadays. As Ceresole was open for alternative views on his ideas and actions, maybe he would be not so critical. But probably he would react on the extent of our dependency on governmental and EU funds.
Younger members gained a lot from the stories of older activists. At the same time the input of younger activists was important to reflect on how we should think and act today.
One thing will be sure: SCI will continue with the message of peace. We donâ??t agree with a world where there are wars/violent conflicts, we will oppose the enormous arms-trade in the world, we will keep and after the seminar even reinforce supporting (the ideas of) conscious objecters (objection), of which we had 6 participants among the whole group of 25 participants. Peace is the only way. And we will build on and work towards a more peaceful world, as we are convinced we can bring forward an positive alternative. We are not alone in this aim, the presence at the seminar of other IVS- and peace-organizations made us realize that cooperation and linking should be done.
We brought forward a statement about the terrible attacks in Paris and Lebanon, which happened during the seminar. We could not simply ignore such, or any kind of violence, while we are at the same time talking about peace and pacifism.
In the light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of SCI and international voluntary service this seminar was a milestone and also a starting point to reflect and set a new way of the concept of peace in the perspective of how SCI started. As participants we call upon the movement from now on to make serious work towards the 100 years anniversary. Not just to celebrate and to look back, but to be inspired and learn from the past and to go forward for the future.

Programme of the seminar, Verdun, 2015

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Verdun, 15 nov. 2015