Europæiske Fornemmelser er et nyt dialogprojekt, der vil forene og forbinde folk på tværs af forskellige forståelser omkring Europa. Den voksende polarisering inden for Europa, senest symboliseret af Brexit, kræver en ny måde at diskutere og tale om sociale og politiske emner på, der kan bygge bro mellem folk med modstridende holdninger.
Europæiske Fornemmelser er et sådan projekt, der igennem dialogworkshops fremmer samtale og forståelse mennesker imellem. Workshoppet bruger metoden Restorative Circles til at bryde med den typiske politiske debatstil, og i stedet skabe en lyttende og delende læringsproces. I stedet for at gøre ”den anden” mere fjern, binder denne metode folk på tværs af holdninger sammen.
Europæiske Fornemmelser har som mål at nuancere deltagernes forståelse for forskellige politiske holdninger og af Europa som en social, kulturel og politisk størrelse, der påvirker alle på et dybt personligt og fællesmenneskeligt plan.
Europæiske Fornemmelser er den danske del af det intereuropæiske projekt The Restorative Circles for Citizens in Europe, støttet af Europe For Citizens. Projektet foregår samtidigt i 13 byer fordelt på fem lande: Danmark, Tyskland, Ungarn, Grækenland og Italien.
Europæiske Fornemmelser koordineres af Mellem Education, en dansk organisation, der arbejder med demokratiforståelse, gruppeprocesser og menneskerettigheder (www.mellemeducation.org).
Europæiske Fornemmelser vil foregå over seks weekender i foråret 2017, hvor 16 deltagere vil deltage i hver workshop.
European Sentiments is a unique, innovative, and collaborative project that aims to create true dialogue among EU citizens holding different views on the topic of euro-skepticism, linked directly to specific EU measures. The training will use the Restorative Circle approach to launch a series of talking Circles in 9 cities across five countries in Europe (Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Greece and Italy).
As our political discourse in Denmark becomes more and more polarised, there appears to be less listening and more trying to convince others through a well-rehearsed argument. The restorative circle approach breaks through this win-lose debate style and supports an atmosphere of listening, sharing and learning. Rather than making ‘the other’ more distant, bringing different perspectives together in this way allows for this gap to be closed – seeing that the values and needs of ‘the other’ are in fact shared among all. The power of this method is through this experience.
European Sentiments will take place the last weekend of each month, starting in January 2017 and ending in June. There will be approximately 16 participants in each circle.
On the last weekend of January of 2017, 16 participants met in Copenhagen’s Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, to sit together for the first circle in the 6-weekend series. The two days were devoted to having a conversation, discussing politics and engaging in a dialogue using the restorative circle method. In fact this ended up being a lot more than a conversation, but an opportunity to see each other beyond our political ideologies. The first meaningful question asked about connections to Europe – how does Europe affect you personally? Here participants shared whether they felt like they belonged to this big mass of land we call Europe. Some said they inevitably were European but did not feel the need to be defined by this, while others enjoyed this link to the identity, which provided a sense of comfort and home. This led to a discussion about identity, and people shared personal stories of what it means to be home, to belong, and on the flip side – not belonging, being excluded, and our current political climate and discussion about immigrants and people new to Denmark.
As the conversation deepened, the questions got more and more meaningful as well. The second day was an important opportunity for some of the more controversial opinions to come out, including some people’s generalizations about the religion on Islam, or fears and concerns they had about this particular religion. Others found this itself a concern, and it brought a more conflicting aspect to the circle, one that was not there on the previous day. It was important to have the two days to allow these topics to come out in a safe space. While no solutions were offered, the aim was to be in this process together and to see how our judgements and opinions prevent us from listening to each other. This was something brought up by the facilitators, to allow the group to examine how we listen. The circle is an exercise in listening, sometimes a challenging one because each person faces their own filters in listening.
Overall, the group very much appreciated the weekend spent together and valued the time and effort put in by the group to get to know each other, even with our diverse and sometimes conflicting opinions.
Our second Restorative circle weekend proved to be just as intimate and meaningful as the first one, with a mix of participants, one even coming all the way from Gothenburg, Sweden. The morning round very quickly turned very personal, even with the simple question of “Are you European?”. People shared stories of their national, religious, and ideological identities, and they also shared where they were hurt due to these identities – either belonging or not belonging, or made to feel as not belonging. Once again, the topic of Islam in Denmark got highlighted, with participants in seemingly opposing points of view. One stated, “Islam is not Danish”, while another stated it was his mission to integrate Islam into Denmark. Others in the circle pointed out how Islam is used, but why not other religions or ideologies – is Christianity Danish? How about Judaism?
Such points were heard using the talking piece, an entity which made it much easier to listen to people’s critiques and opinions. In the afternoon, there was also a round about listening – how do we listen? Are we really able to listen to what people say or are we forming our own opinions and waiting for the talking piece to come so that we can express them? This was a very important piece, as it brings an awareness of how little we listen to each other, because we are so caught up in our own opinions.
The circle ended with the following quote from philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti:
“Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions, and prejudices…To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion. Words confuse; they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be in listening an alert passivity. Those who love may listen; but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals; we are forever overcoming and conquering, and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words.”
The third restorative circle weekend was an intimate group who delved into topics far beyond the EU. The discussion started with identity, national identity, and led into the need for identity, and then a personal reflection on the feeling of belonging and not belonging. This circle was unique in the international mix from around Europe – Germany, Italy, Czech, all living in Denmark, also reflecting on their identities as foreign to Denmark but yet ‘not as foreign’ as others who are not in the EU. The circle also presented a chance to discuss pressing European issues, which varied from person to person. For some it was the refugee crisis, for others the environment, and for others the economic system and the focus on material and capital gain.
The circle went from societal to individual, from political to personal, and presented a rich and meaningful conversation with an open space for listening.
The fourth and fifth weekend circles were combined into a 4-day circle training, in which 11 participants were fully and deeply engaged in various topics between the political and the personal. The Betzavta method was integrated within the circles, leading to more dynamic and active engagement, which allowed for a task to be done together, and the reflection of the task to take place using the talking piece and the circle method. The activities included making your own country and deciding who has the right to vote and to be elected in this country. Through this discussion, people’s sentiments on Europe and the concept of a nation-state were shared, with some wanting to come out of this paradigm, but still facing dilemmas on how to organize a system that guarantees equality for all. Others who used our existing reality also faced dilemmas including who one should include and exclude in the voting process. Exclusion was often necessary to guarantee a working system that protected equal rights while limiting freedom in the least way possible.
Another activity done through this method was the three volunteers, where three people had to leave the room and then come back and re-integrate into a new discussion. This also generated a heated debate about majorities and minorities, and when the majority might be projecting their own needs onto the minority. This led to some deep insights about when we want to do the right thing but still are confronted with the dilemma that this can create a limitation on someone else’s freedom. The circle method and the talking piece were used to work through this discussion and share reflections after this heated debate.
Integrating the Betzavta method allowed for this heated debate to come out, which would not have necessarily been possible using only the circle method. The restorative circle allowed for the space to be given for deep and personal reflections, after a confrontational experience within the group.
Betzavta is a Hebrew word and means “together”. The title of this method of learning democracy, which was developed by the Adam Institute in Israel, makes up the programme and philosophical background at the same time. The Betzavta method includes a series of workshops, each workshop containing an interactive task or activity, followed by a reflection session afterwards. The goal of the interactive task is for people to delve into their natural patterns and behaviours, while the reflection session afterwards gives an opportunity to reflect on that behaviour.
To learn more about Betzavta, visit this website:
The 6th weekend consisted of a very diverse group of participants from all over the world, and from all types of academic and professional backgrounds. This was extended to a three day training to allow for a variety of methods to strengthen the restorative circle and deepen the conversation. A few of the questions explored this weekend dealt with groups, belonging, equality, privilege and power. They also coped with their group decision making process and commitment to the process.
A very special *extra* weekend took place specifically for a group of Israelis who live in Jutland, Denmark. This circle came out of a need to come meet face to face those who were relentlessly arguing over Facebook about politics and Israeli society. The group, a mix of “lefties” and “righties” and everyone in between cautiously came together and worked delicately through the conversation, with space for listening and patience. While the circle method was not always popular, as the cultural nature tends towards more reactive and dynamic conversations, it was found to be a useful tool to retain energy, focus, be present and listen to the other. The circle method was very much appreciated by all the participants, and they plan for more events in the future.