Already in 2020, the circle of full-time and voluntary staff of Vacation From War began to reconsider the project name.
As we shared in our last annual report, the title “Vacation From War” repeatedly leads to confusion or even irritation, especially among those who are newly acquainted with the project as interested supporters or who are participating in dialogue encounters for the first time. In addition, it no longer reflects the core of our work, as it may suggest that it is primarily a matter of enabling adolescents and young adults to spend their free time together or to get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere.
While the vacational aspect was a central element in the early years of the project when it organized children’s camps, in both project regions the serious, often challenging political dialogue, the encounter with the “other” side has increasingly moved to the center of our work.
After many rounds of talks with long-time activists, colleagues of the Committee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy and partners in the project regions, it is decided: “Vacation From War – Dialogues across Borders” will become “Speak up – Dialogues across Borders”, in German “Wi.e.dersprechen – Dialoge über Grenzen hinweg”. Since political dialogue work across physical, political and emotional borders has been at the heart of our work for many years, the slogan “Dialogues across borders” continues to apply.
In German, the new name is a play on words with the verb „to contradict“ and the words „to speak again“ and contains the projects’ most important elements. It is about talking to each other again in contexts in which all too often conflictual social and political issues of the past and present are tabooed or distorted and charged with hostility in populist media and political opinion-making. Also, it is about hearing from the often downright demonized “others” in person, exchanging ideas, developing understanding and expressing one’s own positions – in other words, to speak up (again) oneself.
At the same time, the very decision to enter into political dialogue with the other sides is an act of contradiction, an act of resistance, and an act of political activism. It is an act of opposition against a political reality that only knows friends or enemies. Against perpetuating cycles of violence and populism, against the primacy of political-economic interests over peace and justice.
Not least, it is a contradiction to and resistance against the stereotypical dehumanization of the “others” and thus a re-encounter with the “others” as persons with feelings, fears and hopes.
This resistant counterpoint, which the dialogue encounters set, finds its continuation in the political activism of the participants, to which the encounters often motivate them. (…)
In English, the slogan “Speak up”, while only a partial translation, intends to convey this same idea. It stands for exactly what we have already been doing for many years: in creating spaces of political dialogue, we enable young people to contradict, resist, speak up (again), to develop perspectives for a different, peaceful future and to set out together to achieve it.