“Walls or Bridges” – Populism, Integration & the Future of Europe

On May 22nd 2017 the Youth Committee of UPF-Austria organised a panel discussion at the University of Vienna on the theme: “Walls or Bridges? Session II Populism, Integration & the Future of Europe.” The speakers This event was the second of a series of discussions on this topic. The first one took place in December 2016. The four speakers addressed the topic from different angles: Mr. David Meinel spoke about populism. He explained that there is not only political populism, but also ecological and cultural populism. In political populism we can observe populism of the right wing and left wing parties. In essence, populism mainly appeals to the emotions. Mr. Meinel who wrote a paper then explained about the roots of populism, which are to be found in the 16th century when governments became more centralised. He observed that today’s party system is out-dated and unable to change. He suggests aiming for direct democracy, similar to how it is practiced in Switzerland or in ancient Greece, i.e. “A world of doing and acting”. The second speaker was Prof Ismael Yasin. Having been a professor at Damascus University, Syria, he has lived in Vienna for 2 years. He was able to learn the language and to adapt to the new situation, so that he could find work at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. From there he moved to the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF), working in a project called “Treffpunkt Österreich” (Meeting Point Austria), in order to help Syrian and other refugees find their place in our country. “Knowledge is power and light, while ignorance is darkness”, he stated. “We need to know each other. We belong to different religions and ethnicities. But we all have one origin.” He then explained shortly about Syrian culture, which goes back 9000 years in history. The three Abrahamic religions all started there (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and they have the same heritage. They have to find a way to work together. His next topic was his work with Syrian refugees in Vienna and, in his opinion, the key to integration is learning the language, but cultural integration is most important. That’s why he used to take the refugees to the historic places in Vienna, explaining the history and culture. He got very good responses to these programmes. The audience could sense the great effort he has been making in helping refugees find their place in Austria. Nina Tsiklauri (her background is Georgian) presented the project “Pulse of Europe” (https://pulseofeurope.eu/). It is a citizens’ initiative for finding ideas of how to reshape the European Union. Every Sunday afternoon a group of volunteers meet at a public place, giving everybody who is there the opportunity to present his/her ideas for the EU. The action group was founded in Frankfurt, Germany, by a couple that wanted to create this platform to exchange ideas. In Vienna they consist of a team of 10 persons, and their expenses are covered by crowdfunding. The motivation and the vision of this action group are to spread a pro-European atmosphere and a positive image about the EU. They are also setting an example of active citizenship which should help ensure the freedom we have been enjoying for several decades in Europe. Finally, people have to be more informed about the European Union. Aladin Naksh Bandi, from Syria, introduced “Smart Academy” (http://www.smartacademy.de/index.php/en/home-en) to the audience, a project which he founded in 2014, through which he offers tutoring and seminars for refugees in various fields, such as learning the language, legal advice and job opportunities. The intention is to promote tolerance, understanding and goal-oriented thinking. Mr. Bandi stated, “Seeing the situation of the refugees in Vienna I asked myself: How can I contribute to build bridges between cultures? I concluded: We have to become smart… Read More “Walls or Bridges” – Populism, Integration & the Future of Europe

World Cafe: The Role of Interreligious Dialogue in 2015

UPF (Universal Peace Federation) held its summer festival on 19.07.2015 in the premises of UPF in Giessen. Last year the first such festival was held under the motto ‘world family’, and this year the topic was ‘between war and peace: the role of interreligious dialogue in 2015’. The world café was an integral part of… Read More World Cafe: The Role of Interreligious Dialogue in 2015

Youth Civic Engagement: Discussed on International Youth Day

How can political education, and education provided by religious/ local communities foster civic engagement? On Friday (August 14, 2015) evening Youth UPF hosted an event to mark International Youth Day wherein audience members joined the panel in a lively discussion regarding how political education and education provided by religious local communities can be used to… Read More Youth Civic Engagement: Discussed on International Youth Day

Empowering women, empowering humanity: picture it!

International Women’s Day 2015. 23 March 2015, House of Lords, Committee Room 4. “Every day should be International Women’s Day,” opened Baroness Verma. The resounding applause that followed highlighted Baroness Verma’s firm insistence that “we all [must] work together as it takes people to bring people together.” Women were not the only members of the audience, but “enlightened men.” The men in attendance were commended for their presence as it formed solidarity amongst those in attendance.… Read More Empowering women, empowering humanity: picture it!

Discussing the Present and Future of Religious Education in Schools

Short recapitulation of the talks given at the seminar House of Lords, 9 December 2014 Organised by UPF and Youth UPF Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham (our host for the evening) Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham welcomed everyone to the House of Lords, sharing some of his background and passion for the topic of Religious… Read More Discussing the Present and Future of Religious Education in Schools

European Youth Event: Personal Highlights – Part 2

Volunteering for the Unemployed? By Benedikta We were discussing many questions about volunteering in the workshop : “Don’t ask what Europe can do for you – What can you do for Europe?” Basically, the questions were about how to promote volunteering, as many reported, the experience they gained through volunteering helped them in their character… Read More European Youth Event: Personal Highlights – Part 2

Conversations about a Greater Europe: The Results

About 40 people joined on June 3rd our “Conversations about a Greater Europe” in Vienna. The event was organized in cooperation with ACUNS, the Academic Council of the UN System Liaison Office Vienna.”Identity. Boarders. Peace.” where the three themes the young gathering tackled. Lukas Wank, the Founder of Shabka expressed is concerns that European Democracies… Read More Conversations about a Greater Europe: The Results

European Youth Event: Personal Highlights – Part 1

Some thoughts and reflections from the Youth UPF delegation to the European Youth Event (EYE) held in Strasbourg, May 8th-11th. We represented Austria, Finland, France, Germany and Italy. Honest Insights from Young Entrepeneurs by Anja The session about entrepreneurship at the EYE2014 in Strasbourg was led by active entrepreneurs which told their personal life stories… Read More European Youth Event: Personal Highlights – Part 1

Ukrainian Russian youth symposium held in Vienna

On Saturday, 29th of March, 15 Russians and Ukrainians met up to discuss matters of identity, values and neighborhood-relations as well as talk about visions of future for their societies. In world café-style small groups debated 4 questions (see below). In a reflexion round afterwards the need for further and profound possibilities of exchange was… Read More Ukrainian Russian youth symposium held in Vienna

Moscow-Paris-Vienna: Connecting for the World Interfaith Harmony Week

During the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014, UPF Youth Austria, France and Russia joined in organising an interfaith event at the initiative of UPF Russia. A questionnaire about interfaith harmony was sent to UPF members, ambassadors for peace and friends. In 3 days, we collected over 130 answers. A public video-conference was then held between… Read More Moscow-Paris-Vienna: Connecting for the World Interfaith Harmony Week

10 Days of Community Service and Building International Friendships

By Anastasia Petrovskaya   From the 1st to 10th of August, 2013 the Religious Youth Service project took place in Estonia, Johvi. The project was supported by the Lutheran church of St. Michael. Main purposes of this social project were improving the building and grounds of the Lutheran church, improving and cleaning the memorial cemetery… Read More 10 Days of Community Service and Building International Friendships

Welche Rolle können Religionen im Jahr 2015 für den Frieden spielen?

Die Frage die wir uns heute stellen ist: „Welche Rolle können Religionen im Jahr 2015 für den Frieden spielen?“ Je nachdem wo wir uns auf diesem Planeten befinden, stellt sich diese Frage etwas anders. Heute sind wir in Deutschland und was Deutschland – zumindest was Gießen betrifft – haben wir es in der Diskussion außschließlich… Read More Welche Rolle können Religionen im Jahr 2015 für den Frieden spielen?