Report from Religions for Peace at EIYN 2013 Summit and Nuclear Disarmament Training, Vienna

Funded PhD opportunity – Religious Literacy and Religious Studies
December 20, 2013
A Multifaith Committee on Freedom of Religion and Belief meeting
January 23, 2014

Leaders of 25 youth faith organizations– Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian – from all over Europe, member organizations of European Interfaith Youth Network, met in Vienna in the end of November for 3 days of interfaith youth summit and training on humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Young religious and interfaith leaders pledged multireligious cooperation for nuclear disarmament. The training took place in beautiful Am Spiegeln Seminar Center of  Vienna, called “a venue of dialogue” . 

 

EIYN’s summit is the key annual encounter for EIYN member organizations, to re-affirm commitment to the mission and vision of the EIYN, plan future activities and network’s development and advance multi-religious cooperation for peace. This year’s summit was dedicated to the topic of nuclear disarmament. Young religious leaders took part in a training on “Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons” led by trainer Martin Hinrichs from  International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Germany. The training started off in with an interactive space-game, with participants trying to guess numbers of nuclear warheads existing in the world, which got participants interested in the topic. Most had no idea about the number of the nuclear warheads. As next, participants needed to guess what is a potential scale of destruction of one nuclear warhead.

 

Next part of the training was dedicated to talking about history of this weapon, from its creation, usage, Hiroshima, Cold War, and modern times and about threat that those weapons pose to personal health, societies and the environment. After that, young interfaith leaders learned about numerous aspects of nuclear weapons: a)immediate effects of 100-kt nuclear bomb, shown on example of a map of Vienna, and then Central Europe. b)long-term effects (Climate effects and implications for food security. Participants saw a model of limited war between India and Pakistan, showing what would be its effects. Next, maps of global cooling effects were presented, as well as maps of change in precipitation that would take place as a result of such “limited” war, and estimation of how many people would die in a result of starvation being a consequence of those changes.

 

Following part of the training referred to a political discourse on nuclear weapons used by those who own those weapons, like for example often heard statement, made by politicians : “these are political weapons … they are not meant to be used” where such statements are very misleading. Summit’s participants learned about how owning nuclear weapons is considered a prestige in certain circles of people of power, and how global campaigners against nuclear weapons try to change this (from considering ownership of nukes as prestige to considering it globally as a stigma).

After a break, young leaders were introduced to topic of campaigning and global movement to ban nuclear weapons, with seeing a movie “It takes courage to change the world” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf-BBwhudLA&list=UUgBGY7NX3Ltb5pybHQZUzTw). The trainer  inspired young religious leaders  to join ICAN in campaigning for banning nuclear weapons, banning it with a special international treaty, similar to treaties that banned landmines in 1997 and cluster munitions in 2008.  Later the participants learned about different world initiatives, projects implemented in a framework of global campaign for banning nuclear weapons, for example about initiatives trying to change political discourse on nuclear weapons, organizing protests, lobbying at governments, and working on creating a treaty on banning this weapons. The trainer said that global campaigners believe that discussions about nuclear weapons must focus on humanitarian impact of those weapons, and not only on narrow concepts of national security and “deterrence”. The participants found out then, what are the remaining challenges, and they got to see a list of countries in the world that support a ban of nuclear weapons, countries that hesitate whether to support a ban or not, and countries that oppose the ban. Many of summit’s participants were surprised to see that the country they come from oppose the ban.

The second part of the training was aimed at acquiring some practical skills necessary for campaign planning, and work in groups. Participants got divided into 6 groups and each of the group worked for two hours to prepare a plan for advocacy campaign around nuclear weapons aimed at different group, according to “Tools for preparing a campaign” presented by the trainer. After an hour, groups shared their work with all of the participants.

At the end of the training, EIYN’s Core Group (executive group) and Martin introduced EIYN’s members to “Religions for Peace Resource Guide on Nuclear Disarmament”, resource guide for religious leaders and communities that was launched just a few days before our Summit in Vienna, during Religions for Peace World Assembly, and inspired young leaders and their organizations to use this resource guide. The guide can be downloaded from here:

http://www.baselpeaceoffice.org/sites/default/files/imce/articles/News/rfp_resource-guide-nuclear-disarmament_v08_preview-pages.pdf

On a side of a training, representatives of different youth religious organizations present in Vienna discussed and planned future joint interfaith and disarmament activities for year 2014 , elected new leadership group of the network and accepted  new members to the network.

Religions for Peace, European Interfaith Youth Network is  (EIYN) is a platform of youth organizations from all religions present in Europe,advancing common action for peace. EIYN Network is composed of youth faith-based organizations (and in some cases: religious communities) and non-religious organizations that facilitate inter-faith dialogue, operating on pan-European or national level in different countries of Europe.

Vienna 2013 EIYN Summit and Training was financed by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Religions for Peace, European Council of Religious Leaders, Religions for Peace International, Focolare Movement and The Gandhi Foundation.

EIYN’s website: http://disarmeurope.wordpress.com/

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