The aims of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) are very precise: to carry the confrontation with National Socialism into society and to create internationally visible signs - so that words are turned into visible actions.
The issues raised by National Socialism touch the very foundations of human civilization: How could the murder of millions of people happen? Why did loving fathers become cold-blooded murderers? Why did so few stand in the way of the extermination of the Jews? And, of course, we must also ask the question: What does all this have to do with us, what influence does Nazi history have on those born after the Nazis and on today's society?
Action Reconciliation wants to encourage young people to not be satisfied with prefabricated answers, but to search for answers themselves. This search often leads to a sense of commitment towards reconciliation, acceptance and justice.
Encounters across borders are at the heart of the work of Action Reconciliation. Encounters are fascinating experiences which can be new and fun, but also entail uncertainty and conflict. New worlds open up, but at the same time unexpected boundaries are revealed. Often there are barely perceptible differences that become insurmountable barriers in conflict situations.
The desire to come closer together also implies the need to perceive boundaries and accept differences. Encounters can be a success if those who participate are questioning themselves and are willing to accept new perceptions of the world and of themselves. They can be a success if the participants are willing to change their perspective and attempt to see the world through the eyes of others without denying their own identity.
What defines, connects and distinguishes people is much more than their nationality, origin or ethnicity. To find this out also with regard to oneself is a great adventure that Action Reconciliation aims to support through its voluntary services
Memories shape the present. Be it good or bad experiences, they have an impact on our feelings, thoughts or actions - often without us even noticing.
The same applies to societies. Here too, our history is always part of our present. This understanding of past and present as being intertwined can already be found in the Bible. Past experiences of liberation - like the liberation from slavery - inscribe themselves into present times.
This also applies to negative experiences that influence our thoughts and actions in different ways. National Socialism, the German occupation and the war have left their mark on the collective memory of many countries. Here at Action Reconciliation we try to make people aware of their own as well as their collective memories and the impact they have had and encourage a discussion around them. This ensures that diversity is not concealed and understanding is made possible.
When we hear the term reconciliation, we usually think of a conflict between individuals. That historical guilt also requires reconciliation becomes evident to us through our encounters with people who suffered under National Socialism. For many survivors of the Shoah, meeting volunteers from Action Reconciliation is even today the first encounter with Germans since the war. Their pain from the wounds of the past makes the need for reconciliation palpable. A process of reconciliation can be set in motion through the recognition of historical guilt as well as through concrete, practical actions.
Reconciliation also includes the theologically significant concept of atonement. According to the Bible, atonement aims at healing destroyed living conditions, not at making amends for the damage done. After all, the suffering of any victim of violence and injustice cannot be compensated. Atonement is not intended to create a good conscience. But atonement can help the helpless out of their prison and be the first step towards a better future.
The long road to a lasting and comprehensive peace depends on the transformation of individuals and society. For Action Reconciliation, peace is more than the absence of war; it becomes possible when the individual learns to see "others" and himself anew.
Creating peace does not mean accepting unjust conditions or inhuman ideologies, but advocating for a world in which all people are guaranteed equal rights. Such a world is certainly not free of conflict. But a peaceful way of dealing with conflicts demands that we allow other opinions to exist and learn to deal with contradictions. And it requires an understanding of the inalienability of human rights.
ASF wants to contribute to a social climate that allows room for diversity - of values, opinions, characteristics, world views and ways of life. The work of ASF volunteers is both an ongoing learning process and the application of peace skills.