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2019 / Together, Against Youth Extremism!

world student christian federation europe region ecumenical journal | issue 39 | 2019

Together, Against Youth Extremism!


This issue of Mozaik is produced within the WSCF-Europe Work Plan 2019 “Face it. Challenge it. Change it - Faith-based approach to prevent and counter youth extremism leading to violence in Europe”. The publication is funded with the support received from the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the Otto per Mille fund (OPM) of the Waldensian Church in Italy. This publication reflects the views of the author, and the donors cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

editor-in-chief Daniel Jara J. journal editor Matthew Friesner art editor Andrea Franic illustrators Yan Tsang Elijah ‘Tekarts’ Wachira

address wscf Europe Via Pascoli 11, 38122, Trento, Italy

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Mozaik Editorial It is my pleasure to introduce you to the 39th issue of mozaik under the title: Together, Against Youth Extremism!. In this occasion we have decided to deal with one of the thorniest topics in relation to European youth: Extremism, its causes, manifestations, types and consequences. Why does the term extremism have such a negative connotation in contemporary Europe? Does “good” extremism exist as well? What is the logic behind such a phenomenon? What is our role as young Christians in relation to youth extremists? These are the kind of questions we will tackle on this new issue. As it is customary for mozaik, the current issue aims its attention at the reflections from our previous trainings, this time in Kobuleti and Utrecht. In the first section entitled Reflecting, the article from Christiane, Chair of wscf – Europe, offers a theoretical and sensible vision on the phenomena of youth extremism in European countries at the time that she reflects on our position regarding this problem as young Christian believers. Slava’s article reflects on the dialectic between the rights of others and our right to express our opinions and campaign for what we consider is good and necessary. Professor Abou Diab deepens on the historical causes for the current complex relationship between Europe and some parts of the Arab world in order to promote peace and dialogue among the parts and prevent extreme positions. Andrej’s series of illustrations focuses on the problem of relations between religion and violence in the framework of the conference Church and Violence: Victims, Aggressors, Witnesses, which was organized by Ecumena in Vilnius, Lithuania. Finally, Matt, our Senior Editor, offers us his vision on the relation among social media, extremism and faith.

In the second section designated as Federation, we will focus on the work of the participants of the Youth Training Challenge it: Exploring approaches & innovation for combating youth extremism, which took place between 2-6th of November 2019, in Utrecht, The Netherlands; and of the Lingua Franca Leadership Training, between 14-19th of May 2019, in Kobuleti, Georgia under the theme Shared future, shared responsibilities: Empowering a new generation of Europeans. Mirjami from Finland offers us a beautiful piece of art, which has in total 15 different words for the term peace in the languages of the participants of the Youth Training in Utrecht. Furthermore, all the participants of this training offer us a joint Manifesto about their conclusions and convictions regarding youth extremism. Concluding, the attendees to the event in Kobuleti reflect together and offer an Appeal to the European churches concerning social diversity, tolerance and youth involvement. I am personally very proud to credit those who make mozaik such a unique journal with their contributions. Our Senior Editor Matt, our Art-Editor Andrea, our illustrators Elijah and Yan, as well as our writers. To all of you: Thank you for dedicating your talent and time to this amazing project. Blessings, Daniel Jara J. mozaik Editor-in-Chief — daniel jara j. Daniel is a theologian and psychologist from Quito, Ecuador. He is interested on the worldwide rich diversity of reflections and practices of the Christian faith and how to make them understandable to each other. He is a movie fan and is beginning his doctoral project.

Mozaik 39 section 1 | reflecting The trend to extremist collectives: processes, differences and challenges | Christiane Gebauer | 6 Rights are not the same as wishes | Slava Mezhdoyan | 14 The perception of Europe by the Arab world: The weight of History | Khattar Abou Diab | 16 Church and violence: victims, aggressors, witnesses | Andrej Strocaŭ | 22 Social media, extremism, and faith | Matthew Friesner | 27

section 2 | federation Peace | Mirjami Kallinen | 33 Joint Manifesto of the participants of the Training Session “Challenge it: Exploring approaches & innovation for combating youth extremism” | 34 Appeal of the Lingua Franca Leadership Training 2019 attendees to European Churches | 39

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Heavenly King, our Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who are present everywhere filling all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life, come and dwell in us. Cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, gracious Lord. Georgian Orthodox Prayer

Reflecting The trend to extremist collectives: processes, differences and challenges | Christiane Gebauer | 6 Rights are not the same as wishes | Slava Mezhdoyan | 14 The perception of Europe by the Arab world: The weight of History | Khattar Abou Diab | 16 Church and violence: victims, aggressors, witnesses | Andrej StrocaĹ­ | 22 Social media, extremism, and faith | Matthew Friesner | 27

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section 1

The trend to extremist collectives: processes, differences and challenges mozaik 39 I Reflecting I 6

— christiane gebauer

In recent history, many European countries face more and more radicalization. In the example of Germany, my country of birth, one can see that since 2014 radical groups following extremist ideas get bigger and more influential1. There seems to be a separation of the society in two different directions, and the gap between them seems to get deeper. Whenever there is a political demonstration (no matter what its purpose is) most likely there will also be a “contra-demonstration” opposing its aims. Radicalization can be seen in all aspects of the society, in all political directions. In the following article I will look for the reasons behind this trend towards radicalization from a sociologic perspective, try to look beyond ideals and worldviews to find a phenomenological core and look at the role of young adults in the current situation.

Thus, all entities strive towards being incomparable and capable of creating an intrinsic value. The ideal of our society is to be recognized, valorized and identified as unique due to our personality and any other visible aspect of our life (such as work, travels, family, lifestyle, etc.). According to Reckwitz, this society of singularities creates a so-called “hyper culture”3, namely a phenomenon by which everything (as long as it is well performed, no matter whether it is sports shoes, having a baby, a job or visiting certain city) can become an entity of cultural interest and traded afterwards on hybrid markets.

I’m going to refer to the “society of singularities”2 theory, which was formulated by the German sociologist Andreas Reckwitz. In his theory, he describes how people “design” themselves, for them to become “Singularities”. He argues for a human inner need within people, for developing certain distinctive traits and parts in their own identity so the society valorize them and give them a proof of authentication.

Examples for this can be found everywhere: We all know people, showing the “unique character” of their last holiday, which was probably a bike tour through India, where they were meeting many locals, who taught them how to cook, meditate, live authentic Indian lives and so on. Also, their new apartment is subject of this performance, probably it is located in a great neighborhood, which is very unique and full of interesting people and fancy bars, restaurants or museums. And of course, the apartment is half pimped up second-hand, half made by designers: actually, nothing fits together, but this creates its special atmosphere. Even sports and lifestyle are part of this staging: Their new fit-


https://institute.global/policy/what-pegida (Feb, 6. 2020)



Gesellschaft der Singularitäten, Andreas Reckwitz, 2017

Gesellschaft der Singularitäten, Andreas Reckwitz, p 145

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ness lifestyle is of course not just about pretty bodies, but also about health, a new mindset and challenging oneself. If these mind-sets, if styles and objects are well performed and are integrated in the picture one projects, society will valorize the person and grant him/her successful singularization, which means appreciation as unique individuals with intrinsic value.

Reckwitz describes that there are different ways to become a “winner” in this process of Singularization. One of these ways is to be part of well-educated “new middle class” which is coping well with the new condition of constant performing and putting oneself and everything related to oneself on the market to become object of the valorization of the others4. 4 

Gesellschaft der Singularitäten, Andreas Reckwitz, p. 285ff

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Another option to receive appreciation as singularity is to become a member of a collective body, as paradoxical as it can sound. These collective bodies singularize themselves as a group. Inside they strive for assimilation and uniformity, often by having shared ethics, history and places. Towards the outside, these collectives have usually a very

negative narrative, stating their own worldview as the only acceptable one at the time they magnify differences and reduce chances for dialogue or uncertainty. These groups can have different backgrounds and hold different identities. As members identify themselves through the vision of the group, their identity should appear homogenous to the

outside and a strong focus on separation from other groups and the rest of the society can be found5.

Being part of these groups (regardless of their ideals and values) has enormous advantages for the individuals as they don’t have to constantly place themselves in the middle of valorization processes, which otherwise are never finished, and on which any valorization can be taken away immediately after. On the contrary, they can instead rely on the capacity their collective body brings to deal with identity and self-value issues. The individual can be a more or less active member and just profit from the outcome of the collectives’ singularization process, which are namely good reputation and appreciation. It explains well why people aim to belong to bigger groups and be part of their valorized identity, as the appreciation for the group counts in the same intensity for the individual which is part of it. An example can be a pupil that is not very successful with individual singularization as he struggles to be visible and to develop character traits that are both: socially recognized and positively acknowledged. The situation of the child changes as soon as he is accepted in the choir of the school and is not “invisible” and bit boring anymore, but part of the most successful group of the school, which has a very unique sound and is admired even beyond the school borders.


Gesellschaft der Singularitäten, Andreas Reckwitz, p. 397f

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This is precisely the logic behind extremist groups (especially political extremism) which share the same values, world view and mostly a black-and-white picture of the world. They look back to an idyllic and over-idealized history with success stories that motivates their future and is often linked to certain places. Most of them mark a radical separation from the rest of the society and are negative towards other visions.

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According to Reckwitz’ theory, it actually doesn’t really matter whether the singular entity is socially seen under a positive or negative light. The only thing mattering is that it is valorized and therefore seen as unique, incomparable and special. In the case of a negative value, Reckwitz speaks about “negative-singularities”, which might be evil, but keep these fascinating aspects as is the case of terrorist or far-right supremacist groups. They work still under the logic of a singularity force. This shows again that these collective bodies do not necessarily need to be “popular” in the sense of being good examples or role models, but that is really just about being unique and acknowledged as such6. By considering this point, it is obvious that the more radical these groups are, the more likely they are to be singularized. Singularization follows the logics of the “unique and special”, this means that while in the industrial times being different meant not to fit in the scheme and was seen as negative and problematic, today being different assures visibility, which is key for the success of the performance. 6 

Gesellschaft der Singularitäten, Andreas Reckwitz, p.423ff

As promoting extreme content usually draws a maximum of attention, people are likely to follow extreme leaders. Nevertheless, one should always keep in mind that extremism isn’t just a unique phenomenon of populist groups in our societies, but that radicalization and extremism are a common phenomenon in many directions and can be found for all purposes -and extremism isn’t a negative phenomenon per se. History shows us many positive examples, such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. By definition an extremist is just “A person who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics7”. This does also include for example the Fridays for future movement8, where students participate in school strikes all over the world for one and a half years by now. In our western European societies, we can see that there is a trend at the moment to be more in favor of certain types of extremism (usually the political left) than toward other types of extremism (usually the political right). But researchers affirm that the criteria we should apply on our evaluation process concerning these movements should focus more on their ways of striving for their goals than on their ideals and whether we share them. In our first evaluation of groups with extreme tendencies we should not look at the sympathies we have for them but should focus on the 7  Extremist. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/extremist (Feb 6. 2020) 8 

https://fridaysforfuture.org (Feb 6. 2020)

way they strive for their ideals and whether their methods fit their priorities. The Center of Prevention of Radicalization9 highlights that extremist groups start to be problematic when radicalization leads to violence. This means that people first get strongly influenced by an ideology and adapt it in their life as a framework of thought, which does not necessarily lead to any action. The second step is the belief in the use of violent means to promote a cause, and the third stage is the merging of ideology and violent action.10 An example for the first step can be peaceful demonstrations and revolutions, such as the civil rights movement, which was by its nature peaceful, even though activists were hundred percent committed to their values and they adapted those ideals to their lifestyle. An example for the third step could be the demonstrations and huge vandalism in Hamburg in 2017. When the G20 forum took place,


https://info-radical.org/en/ (Feb 6. 2020)

10  https://info-radical.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ processus_en_cprlv_2016.pdf (Feb 6. 2020)

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The importance of visibility and a good performance can be illustrated with the help of Instagram, where a photo of a boring Nutella bread for breakfast will not catch any attention, while the same bread with some fancy decorations, highlighting the new vegan fairtrade chocolate spread, that is used will for sure be more valorized through a higher number of likes and comments.

demonstrations escalated and many people were injured11. By the way, this was not right-wing extremism.

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The role of young people in this process can be to mediate it by using the platforms they have to advocate and to apply Christian values to all conversation (verbal or non-verbal, direct or indirect) with radical groups and individuals. Mediating the process means to stay open for conversations to all directions and not having negative attitudes towards certain groups of people because of their ideology. This might of course be in discrepancy with one’s world view, but it should always be understanding for the other and acceptance for the existence and the freedom to choose own values, even if one might strongly disagree. This openness towards conversations is crucial to not make the stances on the issue even more harden and not to provoke violent reactions. Of course, we as young Christians should strive for our ideals, follow them and proclaim them openly by using all the platforms we have, such as the digital world, more specific social media. There are many great movements, focusing on empowerment, eco-justice or human rights. Supporting these movements and giving them visibility through our own range is a good thing. Also campus can be a good location for advocating, as it is on the one hand a melting pot for people from all social, national and denominational background, but on the other hand people are still part of a bubble, which is in many matters, including the worldview, mostly very homogenous. Still this can be a good starting point for campaigning and advocating, as it is relatively easy to raise awareness there. To conclude I would like to add a theological perspective, saying that all human beings have been created as images 11 

https://www.zeit.de/politik/2017-07/g20-gipfel-hamburg-live (Feb 6. 2020)

of God and we should in approaching the other never forget this and treat each other with respect and tolerance. We should aim as Christians for openness, for constructive debates and loving service to each other, always keeping in mind current social trends and their effects shaping all our lives.

Sources: Gesellschaft der Singularitäten, Andreas Reckwitz, 2017, Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin https://institute.global/policy/what-pegida (Feb, 6. 2020) https://www.thefreedictionary.com/extremist (Feb 6. 2020) https://fridaysforfuture.org (Feb 6. 2020) https://info-radical.org/en/ (Feb 6. 2020) https://info-radical.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/processus_en_cprlv_2016. pdf (Feb 6. 2020) https://www.zeit.de/politik/2017-07/g20-gipfel-hamburg-live (Feb 6. 2020)

— christiane gebauer Christiane is student of theology in Göttingen, Germany and the new Chairperson of wscf-E. She got involved with wscf-E three years ago, when the German national level delegated her to join events and represent Germany at the ERA 2017. There she was elected as program coordinator.

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Rights are not the same as wishes

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— slava mezhdoyan

“Your rights end where the rights of others start” Such a deep meaning is hidden in one statement that can be interpreted in numerous ways, within different ideologies and beliefs. Your rights are the rights that apply only to you and something that another one is doing is his right and his business. Is it selfish? Never mind, it is the rule! No one should interfere in the lives of others without permission, without asking ‘May I suggest you to…?’ Is it not a simple rule to keep?

Undeniably it is, when someone is not familiar with this rule and there is a wish to impose your ideas, beliefs and wishes on others. And how you intend to do this? Of course, using force and violence, and here is where extremism takes its roots. It is strange that in the 21st century there are people and groups who think that to change something in someone’s life is possible by imposing your opinion or wish using force and violence, through either physical or psychological means. A clear example: Georgia Tbilisi, 2019 November. An aggressive crowd of people are gathered at the cinema Amirani, clamoring to end the film session which is about Georgian gays. I am not going to go deep into the plot of the film, but it is filmed on the topic of lgbtq issues, which is very untraditional for the Georgian society. So what do these people claim? They say that they do not want others to go to the cinema and watch the movie. How do they show their will? In an aggressive and extremely radical way! Closing the road to the entrance, shooting objects and stones at the people who want to attend and watch the film, and shouting humiliating words. Why? Because they want to impose their views and visions on others. They believe in something, which is not interesting to the people who voluntarily want to visit the cinema and watch the film. And, of course, conflict erupted! Should not someone explain to them the Golden Rule? Your rights end where the rights of others start, your right to protest is ended where the freedom of the rights of others to watch, to create, to move, start, as long as they do not bother anyone. How can extremism and radicalism be justified? Of course by the dedication of the cause, by using violence in the name of something bigger, more important than the rights of others, even their lives. People believe that using force is

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justified if you are doing what is right and kind, something that society accepts or the majority accept, even if it harms others’ rights. The world has witnessed numerous examples of justified violence in the name of something more important. All calls for war, massacres, killings, genocides have been justified in the same manner. In the above-mentioned case, it is justified with the aim of the preservation and salvation of the small Georgian nation from degradation, to not let nations fall into sin, to not let the gays make your children gay, etc. All aims follow the logic of not allowing others to act as you do not want them to act. Someone may say that extremism can exist without radicalization, but I would argue that extremism without radicalization is not a constant condition but a matter of time,

like a reloaded gun with a bullet inside waiting for the moment to be shot. Peace and stability could be established with only one rule. Your wills and wishes end where others’ wishes start and to respect others’ wishes, values, opinions as you would want others to respect yours, even though they are different! — slava mezhdoyan Slava is from Georgia, he is youth worker and trainer of non-formal education. Since 2016 he is a president of youth organization Umbrella and is actively engaged in youth development projects in Georgia and beyond. He is aiming at motivating, educating and activating post-soviet youth of his country.

The perception of Europe by the Arab world: The weight of History

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— khattar abou diab

This article was presented at the CEC Peace Conference in Paris, 11th September 2019. English Translation by mecc The objective of this conference to reflect on the means of promoting peace in a world that is constantly losing stability is certainly a noble one. It is not easy, though, to encompass the challenges of this century and view them according to the weight of history, of the upheavals and the crises

that shake the Levant, at these times of strategic commotions on the international level, when the Arab system is weathering away. Following the facts established by the Sykes – Picot Agreement and the Versailles Conference one hundred years ago, creating the Arab States and of the State of Israel has hardly settled any disputes and historical conflicts. This region lo-

In this new “big game” of the 21rst century which takes place in the Middle East, it is only legitimate to wonder what happened to the inheritance of Paris and London in the disastrous whirlwind of our time. This would not be possible without better grasping the many other factors, that shaped the history of the twentieth century in this marginalized Mediterranean and in this Levant that is victim of the simultaneous conflicts between gods and men. For Ghassan Tuéni and Jean Lacouture, the twentieth century was “a century for nothing”. However, the first two decades of this century bring in worse heartbreaks (despotism, terrorism, regional and external conflicts). These are witnesses to an ongoing gestation and a reshaping similar to what was seen in Europe after the Thirty Years' War. It is clear that the colonial inheritance and the shares conceived by the two mandatary powers are partially responsible for the disasters in the Levant. Nonetheless, the real reasons for the crises that currently shake this region are the following: failing to establish valid nation-states in multicultural societies, failing to deal with the insoluble Arab-Israeli conflict, the irruption of the religious factor with the Khomenei, and the weigh of the petrodollar.

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cated at the epicenter of our planet has become conflictual par excellence. While the Israeli – Palestinian – Arab conflict remains the longest and most alarming regional problem, the current wars and crises in Iraq and Syria have added to the recent upheavals and to the staggering wars of Lebanon (1975 to 1990) elements of a nebulous landscape on which the Western European no longer has a great hold. The US super power that has been dominating the Middle East, especially since the Iraqi war in 2003, is currently competing with the return of Russia by Vladimir Putin. On the regional level, the deletion of the central Arab states seems to comfort Israel but actually benefits the new imperial projects led by the Khomenei Islamic Republic in Iran and by Erdogan’s Turkey.

Indeed, the tragic scenery that brings at stage Europe, Judaism, and Christianity relates to the great epics of history. One can see from another perspective the destiny of humanity without the interaction between the Levant, as the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and Europe as the founder of modern civilization. Oppositions and encounters around the Mediterranean have shaped the past and still influence the present and the future. As this Mediterranean region searches for a place in the world of the 21st century and for a new balance among its components, “self-understanding passes by the Other”, in order to promote partnership between the two shores of this Mediterranean Basin that is one of the most ancient homes of human settlement and civilization. This East-West or Europe-Arab world binary combination, which is constituted by a series of oppositions and secular neighborhoods, appears as a constant in the Mediterranean

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history and still weighs on the course of today’s international relations. In this context, the different perspectives on one side or the other are influenced by the conjunction of historical, political, religious, cultural and economic elements. To understand the historical reality of European-Arab relationships, one must go back to the time when the unity of the Mediterranean was broken up. Some historians believe that the Arab Conquest is the main cause of this event, while another category of historians assume that the break between the two shores was only consumed in the sixteenth century, following the discovery of America, which consecrated the supremacy of Atlantic Europe over the Mediterranean. For Europe, the axis of the world started gradually moving towards the west, while the Levant “lost its old privilege as the sole depository, at the time, of the riches of the Indies” (Fernand Braudel). Between the Arab Conquest and the discovery of America, several historical

Hence, for several centuries, the history of the Arab world could not be disconnected from the history of Western Europe. The West underlies somewhere in each Arab country, as it is explained by the cultural impact, especially by the weight of the colonial history in which the Arab world was the subject of intense struggles between hegemonic powers. This “domination logic” has affected the Euro-Arab relations from the start. During Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt and Palestine at the end of the eighteenth century, France was not perceived as a “model of civilization” but rather as a “center of power”. Despite the final failure of the expedition, it marks a major turning point in the East-West relations, starts the first European colonization company since the Crusades, and opens the way for European powers to clash in the Mediterranean Levant. This clash intensifies as the Ottoman Empire weaken, and then transforms into profiteering at the exit of the first world war. The Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 between the two mandatory powers of the time, i.e., Great Britain and France, politically fragments the Mashrek. The French historian André Raymond believes that “butchering this region will always remain an unhealed mutilation of the Arab world”. The political literature of Arab nationalists of all tendencies and the pan-Syrian nationalists point at the Sykes-Picot agreements as Pandora’s Box and the prerequisite for creating the State of Israel. Admittedly, Britain is more criticized in the Levant because it abandoned its promises on the Arab kingdom. However, France is also accused because of its colonial influence on the Maghreb and its “support” of minorities in the Levant. Since then, many Arab writers and thinkers who have drawn so much from the annals of the French Revolution to fight the Ottoman Empire, or to justify their aspirations for liberation, have expressed their disappointment by adopting a harsher nationalist discourse. This

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events have also marked the collective imagination of both parties. I here name the most significant: the Crusades, colonial history and the conflicts during the Ottoman Empire.

historical brief shows that the Arab and Muslim perception of Europe is mainly a reaction to the long history of the European power games in the region.

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The vision of Europe is also marked by the cultural abyss and religious disputes. In his book “Imagining the Middle East” (L’Orient imaginaire), Thierry Hentsch rightly estimates that the Middle East, especially the Mediterranean Middle East serves as a point of reference to the Western consciousness. This approach is also applicable to the Arab world that often positions itself in relation to the European West. One of the great problems of the Arab world today is that modernization does not appear as an internal process, but rather as an imitation of the West. Therefore, it is experienced as a loss of identity by some religious circles. Moreover, the political customs imposed on the Arab world play against political modernization. Authoritarian regimes have adopted a perverse way of modernity where the individual has no value if compared with the providential man and the beneficiary clique. The notions of citizenship and law are always confused. The fact that religion and the state are not separated creates an unprecedented situation where creeping social Islamization exercises an exclusive virtual domination the socio-political field and partly explains the rise of political Islamism. No doubt, as we mention the Arab Middle East, or of the Arab world, we admit that it is based on Islam as a religion and culture. In Europe, on the other hand, things are different because Christianity has gone through another path unexperienced by Islam. Yet, one must remember that the current European civilization owes much to the time of the Muslim presence in Andalusia, when Cordova and its sisters was in glory; the movement of translation and cultural interaction has sown the seeds of European progress.

The radical Arab vision believes that the West has transposed itself into the East through the state of Israel, established in 1948. This turning point has profoundly affected the relationship between “the European example” and “the Arab disciple”. Rejection reached its peak at the time of the Suez campaign (1956), which coincided with the deterioration of the situation in Algeria. The hell wheel of violence in the Middle East since the second half of the last century has pushed men to the extreme. Overall, the Arab world sees the West – including Europe – as an instrument of power and supremacy, while public opinion in Europe often considers the Arab world through the prism of petrodollars, terrorism, and mass immigration. In the contemporary Arab world, the successive defeats against Israel and the second Gulf War have amplified the feeling of helplessness and “Arab humiliation” is becoming the best pretext for seeing a scheme in any political act. Indeed, the cultural decline and the organic problems of the Arab world have caused failures that undermined the foundations of the Arab regional system and paved the way for the rise of Islamism. Mutual perceptions between the East and Europe oscillate according to configurations, and are constantly stained by a certain misunderstanding. Yet, in our times of globalization, strategic and economic collaboration are a must. Altogether, the relationship does not only depend on promoting active and coherent European politics, nor on the valorization of the Mediterranean side of the European Union, but also on a better knowledge of the Other. — khattar abou diab Khattar Abou Diab is a Franco-Lebanese political scientist, geopolitical consultant, specialist in Islam and the Middle East, and Professor at Paris-Sud University

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Church and violence: victims, aggressors, witnesses mozaik 39 I Reflecting I 22

— andrej strocaŭ

This series of illustrations was created for a project of the belarusian center “Ecumena”, which focuses on the problem of relations between religion and violence and aims to launch the discussion on this topic in belarusian society. Its key event was the conference “Church and Violence: Victims, Aggressors, Witnesses”, which was organized by “Ecumena” and took place on 27-29 September 2019 in Vilnius in Lithuania. The event reunited the belarusian researchers working in the fields of theology and religious sciences, writing in different languages and representing various Christian confessions. “Ecumena” also prepared the second issue of the multilingual and interdisciplinary review “Zbožža” (“grain” in belarusian, but also similar to the phrase “z Boham”, “with God”) on the topic “Church and Violence”. One of the questions that both the conference and the review try to address is: “What is violence at all?”. For it is both evident and a quite mysterious phenomenon which cannot easily be measured by some physical or social characteristics. Meanwhile, the discussion about violence is urgent. On the global, regional, and national levels, knowing that there is ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and that in Belarus capital punishment is still a major problem reflects this urgency. These pictures that I created may also be used as the illustrations for the issue of “Zbožža”. They are largely inspired by René Girard’s thinking on violence, which is the reason for my interest in theology and anthropology, and reflect on different dimensions of violence – gendered, historical, religious, political, and more.

This autumn in Vilnius several participants of the January Uprising of 1863-1864 were solemnly reburied more than 150 years after their execution by the Russian imperial government. After many generations those events still resound strongly in Lithuania and Belarus. Is there the way out of the circle of violence, once it began?

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The version of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn (belarusian – Астрабрамская, Lithuanian - Aušros Vartų, Polish – Ostrobramska) situated in Vilnius, Lithuania, and venerated by Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims. On this baroque icon the metal rays of the sun around Mary’s head resemble true swords, which makes one remember the words from the Gospel “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk 2:35).

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It is said that Saint Nicholas once saved two prisoners the last moment before their unjust execution. Not everyone sentenced to death can hope about such a protector. And can the capital punishment be just at all?

One of the unusual features of Byzantine liturgy that differs it from all the other existing rites is the spear, which symbolizes the Lance of Longinus that pierced the side of Jesus (John 19:34). The joy of Communion always bears in it the memory of the Crucifixion.

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The image refers to Kurapaty, the forest near Minsk where thousands of victims of Stalin’s era are buried, as in many other nameless places in Belarus and ex-ussr. The memory about them does not reconcile the society, and Kurapaty is constantly at the heart of cultural and political conflicts.

The detail of the classical Eastern icon of Resurrection, where the gates of hell are broken and Jesus stands on them as on the cross. All the chains, locks and bolts become rubbish, falling into abyss. Too often we forget that hell is no longer closed and that we are all called to make a step out of it.

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Some British and German young soldiers chatting at Christmas Eve, as thousands others did during the Christmas Truce of 1914 – an unofficial ceasefire that marked the first year of WWI. The night when impossible became reality.

The copy of the medieval stained-glass window from the Basilica of Saint-Denis near Paris. The apocalyptic figure of Jesus with the “sharp, double-edged sword coming out of his mouth” (Rev 1:16). “ I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). What do these words mean?

— andrej strocaŭ He is an Orthodox Christian born in Minsk, Belarus and is now doing his Master degree in Anthropology of Religion in Paris. Andrej tries to use both art and social Sciences to explore his theological interests as violence, community or conversion.

Social media, extremism, and faith mozaik 39 I Reflecting I 27

— matthew friesner

There is currently a discordant debate regarding the benefits and negatives of social media in the modern world, and especially the impact of social media on youth and turning to extremism for answers. Gathering information is increasingly limited to online searches. Fearmongering and disinformation have become normative on the internet for those trying to find reassurance and truth, and especially for younger generations, although older generations should not be forgotten. The online world itself is not conducive to extended and thoughtful reading, but rather brevity and attractive pictures to influence others, similar to television. The effectiveness of the internet in swaying public opinion and the idea of truth reinforces the need to view the web as an ethically bound space. The fact that the internet is the dominant force in spreading disinformation highlights this space as a battleground against extremism and its consequences. The speed at which bad actors can disseminate falsities on sites such as

Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, reinforces the need to educate all generations on source-checking. Updates and alerts are built to excite emotional responses rather than thoughtful reflection. Phrases and popups are worded to animate readers, and extensive social media campaigns are an essential tool of extremist groups bent on altering minds of internet users, especially those who are vulnerable and searching. Most rational people agree that extremist ideologies on the internet need to be counteracted. At this point, though, a reminder is necessary. The internet does not exist in a vacuum, the cyberspaces are not without existent contexts. The use of social media by extremists can certainly catalyze the vulnerable to accept these dangerous ideas, but the vulnerable have also been influenced outside of the internet. Even if one perceives others as increasingly attached to electronic devices, one should not allow this bias to cloud the reality of real-world relationships and their consequences. Social media can be partially blamed,

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This article is a brief suggestion for faith communities to hold back from complete admonishment of social media’s sway. It is a call to reflect on the life of faith and the comportment of different faith communities with one another, to disregard animosity, to engage in dialogue and not rhetoric. Most, if not all, faith communities believe that to meet and interact with another human being is in essence an ethical responsibility, even if founded on different theological concepts. It is indeed our duty to communicate our uniqueness to one another, but in a manner of respectfulness and charity. The battle against extremism starts with our daily lives as we search not only for truth together in our different faiths, but to share a common voice of peace through our actions. — matthew friesner Matt is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has studied ecumenism in Bonn, Germany, and holds an interest in practical and political theology. Other interests include reading classic cultural literature and philosophy, psychology, playing sports, and traveling the world.

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but outward human interaction is much more important. Every child has been raised in his or her own surroundings inculcated with beliefs that can be difficult to shake. Social media can simply be the final push.

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Federation Peace | Mirjami Kallinen | 33 Joint Manifesto of the participants of the Training Session “Challenge it: Exploring approaches & innovation for combating youth extremism� | 34 Appeal of the Lingua Franca Leadership Training 2019 attendees to European Churches | 39

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section 2

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“Peace” This piece has in total 15 different words for the term “peace”. It was inspired by Mirjami’s course mates in the Youth Training “Challenge It: Exploring Approaches and Innovation for combating Youth Extremism” from the 1st to the 7th of November 2019 in Utrecht, and their conversations about humanity, hatred, extremism and most importantly, peace!

— mirjami kallinen Mirjami is a social studies student from Finland, while also working as a bartender and youth worker. She is interested in all issues related to gender, sexuality, lgbtqia+ and such. Her days are spent drawing, making music, watching classic movies and writing. She dreams traveling through Southeast Asia and having her own dog.

Joint Manifesto of the participants of the Training

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Session “Challenge it: Exploring Approaches & Innovation for Combating Youth Extremism” This Joint Manifesto is the result of the work of the participants of the Youth Training “Challenge it: Exploring approaches & innovation for combating youth extremism”, which took place between 2nd and 6th of November 2019, in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Dear Sir or Madam, We are a group of religious young people, people of faith and goodwill who participate in a training provided and organized by the World Student Christian Federation under the name Challenge it: Exploring approaches & innovation for combating youth extremism. We are a diverse group, which is inspired by our common belief in the value and dignity of human kind, personal belief systems and views of faith. While representing our own contexts, realities, experiences and organizations, we came together in Utrecht, in The Netherlands.

As participants we agree that the rise of extremism leading to violence among young people is a contemporary phenomenon that many of us have experienced firsthand and is for us a common concern. We have come to realize that the limits of its definition are not clear at all. The concept refers inherently to a specific context, and it’s always thought about in comparison to different points of view. Therefore, the concept is not morally charged, it is not necessarily positive or negative. Throughout the workshops, case studies and group reflections, we highlighted the relevant contributions of many historical figures who at the time were considered to be extremist but now we recognize that these figures were agents for positive change that had a global impact in the course of history. Unfortunately, in popular discourse, the term Extremism is understood to refer exclusively to its violent manifestation. The discussion about this topic is usually subject to oversimplification, which often perpetuates and strengthens the already structural processes of exclusion and stigmatization of certain communities. This has been a leading factor in the creation of ineffective anti-extremism public policies. With our training, we sought to move beyond these common misconceptions. We developed our knowledge about the radicalization process and the many factors involved and we concluded that individuals who feel left behind by their societies are precisely the most vulnerable and likely to become influenced by extremist ideologies that lead to violence.

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During the Training Session that took place between the 2nd and 6th of November 2019, we came together to share our knowledge and individual experiences, to take part in workshops and built a community of change-makers. This training has challenged us by bringing us together, stepping us out of our comfort zone, fostering debate and by the exchange of points of view it entails. Considering these goals, we aim to bring new perspectives back to our own realities.

In reality, many of these young people, who face daily personal struggles regarding their place in society, feel that simple and small actions are not enough in order to produce the changes they want to see in their society, and they do not trust existing institutions to represent their interests. Therefore, they resort to violence because in their eyes it seems like the only viable and legitimate option. During our time in Utrecht, we did more than simply explore the theoretical framework for understanding the worldwide rise of youth extremism leading to violence in our current time. We also developed a number of proposals for future actions. We agreed on the need to have access to public relations resources and opportunities for lobbying our causes and pursuing our goals in a more effective way. We want to bring increased attention to the issues surrounding youth

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extremism, and especially to promote awareness and conversation about the topic on a widespread level, including among the youth and within decision-making bodies that deal with topics related to young people. In this sense, advocacy is necessary on the local, national and international level in order to implement future plans. Often, local governments refuse to recognize that youth extremism and populism are serious problems and, for this reason, we would also like to seek assistance and support from international organizations and institutions. Simultaneously, local action is crucial for long-lasting and inclusive change. In order to make these proposals a reality, we will require financial assistance as well as access to other resources. It is indispensable that we create a network of experts, polit-

ical actors and other activists who deal with these issues. Concerned young people of the world need more than just words. Conversation alone does not suffice. While moral support and encouragement are necessary, moving forward to material and financial support is needed to realize new projects.

new generation we aim to put them into action because we know that all of us will help to create a more open, diverse, interactive and critical young Europe.

However, this is not simply a plea for monetary assistance in order to develop our individual projects, but also a call to action. We demand that governments, churches and international organizations take the concerns of young people throughout Europe, and worldwide, seriously. Those with power and resources need to take initiative and before it is too late.

Utrecht, November 2019.

It would be our honor to hear your opinion related to the provisions laid out in our Manifesto and give us feedback over specific issues and ideas reflected on it. These reflections were developed in the context of religious and cultural sharing activities, and the program was enriched by contributions from various participants in specific parts of the training, in which we shared our experiences and discussed what would be the best practices that lead to cooperation, intercultural exchange and interfaith dialogue. As a

This WSCF Training Session addressed the topic of youth extremism leading to violence. The event was possible by funding received from the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the Otto Per Mille fund (OPM) of the Waldensian Church in Italy.

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To close, we would like to quote a saying that is commonly attributed to the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri: the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. As Christians, people of faith and men and women of goodwill, we cannot turn a blind eye to the problems of our age and we believe that keeping silence in this difficult hour would be a grave moral failing from our part. We seek to give voice to the voiceless and be a prophetic presence shining in an often dark world. It is for this reason that we ask you to take our proposals to heart and take our letter as a serious call to action from the concerned young people of Europe.

The participants of the Training Session “Challenge it: Exploring approaches & innovation for combating youth extremism�

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Appeal of the Lingua Franca Leadership Training 2019 Churches This document is the result of the joint work of the attendees to the Lingua Franca Leadership Training, which took place between 14-19th of May 2019, in Kobuleti, Georgia under the theme “Shared future, shared responsibilities: Empowering a new generation of Europeans�.

Dear Sir or Madam, We are young Christian activists from different churches around the world who are committed to the principles of tolerance, diversity, integration of minorities, human rights and inclusion. Our main goal is to enhance youth involvement in the current discussions on painful and difficult topics for our societies, which are faced worldwide. We believe that tolerance is nurtured by mutual respect and acceptance. Because of this, it is important to pay serious attention to the voices of those involved in intolerant dynamics instead of assuming that one’s own background is enough in order to build a proper opinion on thorny issues.

We believe that social diversity is a richness for both the Church and our countries. Instead of trying to shape social uniformity, a much healthier attitude is to acknowledge our differences and to encourage people to express their opinions with respect and do not fear to get a negative reaction from our dissenters. These social differences provide strength to a society which refuses to treat minorities as less-worthy and does not exclude them. In order to perform successful dialogues much more attention should be paid to common values, hopes, fears and desires. It is extremely important to overcome a social state of negation regarding the existences of social, sexual, political, religious or na-

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attendees to European

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tional minorities in modern multi-cultural societies. In this sense, an approach that is based on human empathy and sincerity is a required tool for integrating minorities.

We believe that it is our role as youth, to not remain silent, as we are the future of our churches and are the guarantee of our ongoing faith and the glorification of the name of our Lord. Therefore, including youth representatives in church boards or councils will provide the possibility for young people to participate in decision-making processes, which will promote a much more inter-generational leadership that will impact positively our societies in long term perspective. We believe that nowadays the world needs the Church more than ever because it faces difficult and crucial challenges regarding freedom, immigration, social acceptance, wars, famines, hate speeches and crimes. The Church, as harbinger of the kingdom of God, should take a leading role by giving a positive example on how to live in unity. Unfortunately, this will not happen without unity within and between churches, without solidarity and tolerance among different traditions, real integration and inclusion of the youth and minority groups on the decision-making level and without dialogues, which are shaped by acceptance, honesty and equality. Among all, we believe that diversity should not mean division, diversity is richness!

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We believe that youth involvement regarding leadership is an important tool towards providing a youth-friendly and future-oriented vision to our communities.

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In our view, Church plays an important role in modern society, because for numerous people in different contexts Church may resemble a moral and spiritual authority, and its position is being held as important. We must always remember that the Church is the light that guides to God, it fulfills the role of moral compass of our societies and it gives whatever the society is lacking in the contemporary age at the time that cures the wounds the society is experiencing, for example through acts of hate, intolerance and discrimination. Church division affects its very identity as the one body of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the representative of love and forgiveness, as the mother that bears her children in love regardless of their positions, race, gender or faith. Therefore, we ask the Church leaders to take firm steps towards each other, to work on ecumenical spirit and to break down the barriers that separate us. That separation doesn’t just harm the internal perception of Church, but also the outsider’s, which might be a reason for decreasing membership and ebbing influence in secular matters. During this training, we had long discussions and collected concrete suggestions for churches, national movements and international ecumenical organizations. We identified the main topics we should work on during the coming decades, as for example: ecumenism, youth involvement and minority integration, which can be achieved through applying the concept of safe spaces. After our talks and discussions, we agreed that it is important to unite around common values and ideas. We think that diplomatic relations between churches are the basis for ecumenism and its main goal in modern times is to promote mutual respect, unity and acceptance. We learned during the training, what it means to create a safe space, a concept that can be helpful in any sensitive dialogues and a useful tool in order to integrate minorities.

As youth is the future of every nation or organization, it is important to involve it in our churches. The first way to do so, is to create a platform for youth engagement (for example: events, conferences, youth organizations, etc.) Second, by giving them the possibility to take real decisions, they will feel they have responsibility in the life of each church.

Talking at the beginning of our meetings about sexual harassment should not be a taboo, but something to be discussed openly. Also letting everyone agree to respect each others’ personal space can help avoiding intercultural misunderstandings. It is also important to define hate language and don’t keep silent when somebody uses it. For this, a group or person can explain each other why this is harmful and find a better way together to talk about a thematic.

Kobuleti, May 2019.

We are looking forward to receive your answers and comments, do not hesitate to consult us in any questions and concerns. We are looking forward to being involved with you! The attendees to the Lingua Franca Leadership Training 2019.

The topics mentioned above, which were discussed in the Lingua Franca Leadership Training 2019 (organized by the WSCF-E and funded by the Otto Per Mille fund (OPM) of the Waldensian Church in Italy), are relevant to the realities that our churches experience, considering that inclusion, ecumenism and also gender rights are a crucial part of the challenges that not only youth but also churches face nowadays in different denominations.

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Through this concept, we affirm that it is important for everyone to speak openly about his/her needs, thoughts and feelings. Giving you one example, we suggest that it is crucial to ask of the very beginning of every meeting to each participant which pronoun(s) this person prefers. This helps people with a different gender identity to feel accepted and it avoids discrimination. It should also be a common understanding that everything that has been shared in the group should stay in the group and is not to be shared outside the safe space. During a meeting or an event, we speak a lot, that’s why a not discriminating, gender neutral language or including female examples is so important.

Mozaik's Team — daniel jara j. mozaik Editor-in-Chief

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Daniel is a theologian and psychologist from Quito, Ecuador. He is interested in the worldwide rich diversity of reflections and practices of the Christian faith and how to make them understandable to each other. He is a movie fan and is beginning his doctoral project.

— matthew friesner Journal Editor Matt is member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (elca), has studied ecumenism in Bonn, Germany, and holds an interest in practical and political theology. Other interests include reading classic cultural literature and philosophy, psychology, playing sports, and traveling the world.

— andrea franic Art Editor Andrea Franic is graphic designer and photographer from Croatia. Together with partner, she is an art director at her own Idearium Studio. She is an outdoor lover so during sumer she is also an adventure guide in Life & Ventures agency.

— yan tsang Illustrator Yan is a Hong Kong girl with a passion for art. She loves to create things and experiment with different styles. Her work varies from illustration, sketching, crafting to documenting. Portraits are a main theme in her projects, since she gets a lot of inspiration from people in daily life.

— elijah ‘tekarts’ wachira Illustrator Based in Kenya, his work focuses on social justice issues, climate change, and others. Besides working with different organizations, he runs the website tekartstoons.com. His ultimate goal is to make the world a better place, one cartoon at a time.

2019 / Together, Against Youth Extremism!

world student christian federation europe region ecumenical journal | issue 39 | 2019

Together, Against Youth Extremism!


Profile for WSCF-Europe

MOZAIK 39 - Together, Against Youth Extremism!  

Issue 39, 2019

MOZAIK 39 - Together, Against Youth Extremism!  

Issue 39, 2019