Arbeitsstelle Friedensarbeit im Haus kirchlicher Dienste

Ökumenische Dekade zur Überwindung von Gewalt 2001 - 2010


The project "Steps against violence" is the result of an ecumenical learning process which began in an informal settlement called "Canaan" near Durban, South Africa in 1988 and continued in confronting racism and violence among students in German schools and youth groups in 1993. Under the leadership of Rev.K.J. Burckhardt, a group of German and South African theologians and teachers from Kassel and Braunschweig, Germany designed the programme. It then was put to the test with students of secondary schools (6th - 12th grade) and has since then been carried out with great success with ca 5.000 students per year in 4 different German states/provinces i.e Hesse, Baden-Wurttemberg, Saxony and Lower Saxony.

The project is especially designed to highlight structural causes of violence, address the problem of growing racism in Germany and to give students the option of looking at alternatives to either fight or flight in terms of personal reponses to violence. This is achieved by using the example of South Africa as a metaphor of a successful struggle to fight apartheid and its causes. 
In 2004 another module was developed and has since been successfully used as well: the plight of refugees trying to overcome the barriers of “fortress Europe”, their restricted life in Germany and the call for solidarity with them.

The project relates to the ethical foundations of active non-violence and civil conflict resolution. It challenges students to look for ways to break the cycle of violence in their own school surroundings.

The project is concerned about the transparency of the process and establishing or strengthening links of co-operation between communities, churches and schools. Therefore it is conducted on an interdisciplinary basis - connecting representatives from the student body, Parent-Teacher-Associations, communal youth projects/workers and local churches. It is led by facilitators/trainers of the project in conjunction with volunteers from the institutions mentioned.

The project aims at empowering students to resist violence in their schools and to help students and teachers to deal with conflict positively and creatively. For this reason all classes of a specific school take part in the programme which lasts 6 hours per class. The classes have the option of enrolling in accompanying small projects or work groups to display their own findings and resolutions in dealing with violence (video projects, role plays, exhibits, music, dance etc). These elements form the core of a special evaluation programme at the end of the week which is organised and conducted by the students, teachers, parent representatives and project co-workers for the entire school.