Youth for a safe, just and human world - Belarus
Around 150 young people from Belarus and from the Norwegian youth organisation, Fantasiforbundet, joined the forum”Youth for a safe, just and human world” in Belarus from 3 to 4 December 2011
Monday, 26 December 2011, by HRH Bergen, based on Rafto Foundation information
The forum was initiated by Gennady Grushevoy, the 1999 Rafto Prize laureate from Belarus, and chair of the non-governmental organisation ”Children of Chernobyl”.
The purpose of the forum is to give young people in Belarus an arena to learn and discuss social, political and cultural issues. ”It’s unique that a non governmental organisation (NGO) in Belarus can bring together so many young people at a forum like this. One of the challenges is to find a place to hold such a big gathering,” says Gennady Grushevoy. He was a little worried there would be problems arranging the forum because of the tense political situation in Belarus, but his worries proved to be unfounded.
The participants, who come from social youth centres in different regions in Belarus, worked in separate groups at the forum. One of the participants says that she learned to be more open to people and gained a lot of confidence. ”The forum showed me that I can be active, can be a leader and that I must use these traits. I understood that I should communicate with people and try to find common ground with them even if they don’t speak Russian! It’s been a very important experience for the future life,” she says.
Ideas - turn them into reality
About 20 people took part in the programme that Fantasiforbundet had arranged. Fantasiforbundet was founded in 2009 in Oslo, Norway, and is working to create a more fun and fantastic society, in Norway and abroad. They believe that the best way of doing this is by enabling young people to use their ideas and turn them into reality.
Ane Marie Andersen from the Fantasiforbundet took part in the forum as a moderator. “We participated in the forum to show how we work in our organisation in Norway, especially focusing on using larps as a tool for non-formal learning. We try to use our philosophy that creating a good process will yield more sustainable results, which was very useful when preparing the presentation of our results at the forum on Sunday.”
"The Tribunal" and "The Police"
Fantasiforbundet ran two larps (live action role playing games) called "The Tribunal" and "The Police". Both larps describe the dilemma of the choices normal people have to face under authoritarian rule. In "The Tribunal", people got to play soldiers in the waiting room waiting to be witnesses in a trial. In "The Police", the participants played normal citizens serving in the German police force during the Second World War.
Excellent, unforgettable forum
The response from the participants from Belarus was very positive and two girls aged 20 and 15 describe their experiences with the Norwegian group this way:
“It was so nice! I wanted to be in one group with people from Norway because I speak a little bit of English. And I tried to speak with them as much as possible and made friends with them. There were a lot of young people in our group who don’t speak English so I tried to translate for them. And when we played the larp it was funny to see how they act it, how they show their feelings and emotions without words. And I think that young people from Norway are so creative, sociable, active and funny! It was very interesting and exciting to work with them! And it will be so nice to work with them in the future.”
“This participation was very important to me because I did want to take part in debate on these themes. The themes were really interesting to discuss because of their topicality and importance. I took part in the "Psychological roots of violence in an authoritarian society". My choice was deliberate; I wanted to get to know different points of view and to consider this topic from different angles, because modern society is trying to avoid any type of violence (including political violence). Maybe those people from the forum will be politicians (who knows!) and they will seek a better future. The larps made me get lost in my thoughts about what psychological violence is and how we can avoid it. It was very interesting and easy to work with young people from Norway Fantasiforbundet. They made this an excellent and unforgettable forum. I hope we can meet again next year and have another great discussion on hot topics of the year.”
Civil society opposition
Ane Marie Andersen in the Fantasiforbundet says that she really appreciates being able to meet young people in Belarus through a forum like this. “We loved being at the forum. The atmosphere and the people were great, and we felt really welcome from the very beginning. Our programme worked out just as we had hoped: engaged participants who dared to give everything and immerse themselves in the games we were playing.”
It’s important for Gennady Grushevoy and his organisation ”Children of Chernobyl” that they manage to bring together young people not only from Minsk but also from the districts and regions where the political situation is more tense and where the NGO’s work more as the civil society opposition.
Gennady Grushevoy underlines that such cultural events like the forum”Youth for a safe, just and human world” give young people in Belarus a hope for a better future.
HRH Bergen, based on Rafto Foundation information