“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


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


UPF Summer Festival Giessen

On Sunday, July 27th, 2014 UPF Giessen hosted a Summer Festival. The theme of the day was “World Family”. Over 100 UPF members and guests, from all walks of life, came together to take part in the diverse program. The festival began at 11:00 a.m. with an interreligious celebration. Youth Representative Jonathan Makkonen shared his… Read More UPF Summer Festival Giessen


Connect: Today I Learned

Since the beginning of August, Jonathan & Yara Makkonen have been organizing the local project “Connect” on a weekly basis. Connect encourages cross-cultural dialogue on the community level with the hope of contributing to world peace. Our activities are held on Friday evenings in Giessen, and consist of four rotating programs. “Game On!” is an… Read More Connect: Today I Learned


Youth Engagement in Politics

Youth Universal Peace Federation (UPF) – UK You are invited to attend  important youth event on the topic of: ‘Youth Engagement in Politics’ At the House of Lords On Tuesday the 14th of October at 6.00 PM The event is kindly hosted by Rt. Hon. Baroness Verma  We would like to invite you to an… Read More Youth Engagement in Politics


UN Refugee Week 2014 – Forced Displacement and Migration: Time to Rethink Human Dignity?

The Refugee Week is organised and promoted by the United Nations to discover and celebrate the contributions that refugees have made in the UK and other nations over the years. The celebration takes place via a series of events, and one of the first events to take place was Youth UPF’s evening “Forced Displacement and… Read More UN Refugee Week 2014 – Forced Displacement and Migration: Time to Rethink Human Dignity?