To deal with National Socialism and the NS crimes postulates concrete actions in today's society. ARSP's actions work to fill our commitment by following certain guidelines.
Action Reconciliation Service for Peace works for a peaceful co-existence in the world, supports the weak in society and works for a humane future. ARSP volunteers care for survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, they work with the psychologically sick, the homeless, refugees or people with disabilities. They take part in community projects and in anti-racism initiatives and care and up-keep memorial centers, thus preserving the educational sites for the future.
The experiences of these short and long-term peace services have a lasting influence: the volunteers and activists of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace become bearers of the message for a more humane world.
The Nazi past has risen questions that shake the foundations of human civilization: How could millions of innocent persons have been killed? Why did caring fathers become cold-blooded killers? Why did so few try to prevent the annihilation of the Jews?
And another question arises: What has all of this to do with me, what is the influence the Nazi past has on present day's society and on our lives?
Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) tries to encourage young people not to remain complaisant with prefabricated answers, but to search the answers by themselves. This search frequently causes commitment for understanding, tolerance, and justice.
Meeting people across borders is one major goal among the activities of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace. Meeting new people is an exiting process, a process that may provoke fun and new impulses as well as insecurity and conflicts. New worlds may be found as well as unexpected barriers. Frequently it is subtle differences that create seemingly insurmountable barriers in conflict situations.
The wish to come closer to one another makes it necessary to take notice of these barriers and to tolerate differences. Meetings can be successful when the persons involved are ready to accept new ideas concerning the world and themselves. This works if you are ready for a change of prospective and prepared to see the world through the eyes of someone else without denying yourself.
The thing that characterises, connects and differentiates people is to be found far beyond nationality, origin or ethnic stock. To discover oneself in this context is one of the big adventures a volunteer service with the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace offers.
Memories affect the present. Good or bad experiences place something inside our feelings, our thinking and our actions – and frequently we don't even notice. The same applies for societies as a whole. Even here, our history is a part of our present. This understanding of how history and present intertwine with each other was already mentioned in the bible. Past experiences of liberation, such as the liberation from slavery in Egypt, are strongly affecting present day's life.
This is also true for negative experiences that influence our actions and attitudes in many ways. Nazism, the German occupation, and the war have influenced the collective memory in many countries. We, at the ARSP, think it is important to become aware of individual and collective memories and their effects and to talk about it, thus we don't conceal differences and, at the same time, promote common projects.
When we hear the term reconciliation, we think about conflicts between persons. However, if we meet people who have suffered under Nazism we better understand that even historical guilt needs reconciliation. Even today, for many survivors of the Shoah the meetings with volunteers of Action Reconciliation Service of Peace is the first contact with Germans since the war. Their sufferings due to the wounds of the past show the necessity of reconciliation. The recognition of historical guilt and clear and tangible actions may be able to trigger processes of reconciliation.
In a biblical context, reconciliation is strongly connected with atonement. The aim of reconciliation and atonement is to heal the individual and collective wounds caused by a conflict and not simply to repair the damage done because it is impossible to balance the sufferings of all the victims of violence and injustice. The purpose of reconciliation and atonement is not to create an easy conscience but to dwarf helplessness and to dare a first step towards a better future.
The long path to a fair and comprehensive peace leads through a changing process concerning individuals and society. To the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is possible if everyone learns to see himself or herself, and the others in a different way. Creating peace does not mean to accept injustice or inhumane ideologies but to work for a world that concedes equal rights to everybody. Obviously, such a world is is full of conflicts. Dealing more peacefully with conflicts, however, means to accept other opinions and to learn to deal with contradictions. Peace needs a focus on the indivisibility of human rights.
The ARSP works for a climate in society that leaves room for an abundance of cultures, values, opinions, peculiarities, beliefs, and ways of living. The activities of ARSP volunteers are at the same time practice field and emergency in the development of the ability for peace.