Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) conducts its work with the awareness of the present-day significance of National Socialism and the Holocaust.
In 1958 Lothar Kreyssig called upon the Germans to “vigorously oppose the self-justification, the bitterness, and the hate,” to seek forgiveness, and to practice reconciliation. Rooted in the Christian faith, ARSP strives to work together with all those who are committed to a more just and peaceful world. ARSP takes an ecumenical approach in seeking understanding between generations, cultures, religions, and peoples based on living historical memory. ARSP accepts the challenge of pluralistic and multicultural societies in Europe, Israel, and the USA.
ARSP pursues its goals primarily through short term and long term international volunteer services, activities, and campaigns. ARSP participates in practical, equality-based dialogue between cultures, and tries to incorporate the consequences of the past into present-day interpersonal and international relations. ARSP bases its work on the conviction that people - through common practical experience - learn to know and understand themselves and others better, are changed, and through this, create something new. This individual learning experience is an indispensable part of social development. All who agree with this – and are prepared to deal with its theoretical foundations and are willing to participate practically - can take part.
“Sühnezeichen” (Sign of Atonement/Reconciliation)
The term “Sühnezeichen” denotes ARSP's service for peace. This term describes the concrete, symbolic acceptance of the responsibility for the consequences of National Socialism. "Sühnezeichen” opens the possibility for change which creates hope for a united, more just and peaceful future. ARSP feels committed toward all victims of the NS regime. But “Sühnezeichen" implies the fundamental theological and political question about guilt and perpetrators, fellow-travellers, resisters, and victims in the past and in the present. This also brings to light the individual and collective challenge of the individual and societal relation to history and its consequences. This understanding of personal responsibility and capability for political action is part of the lesson learned from the Jewish-Christian dialogue.
ARSP places special significance on the analysis of the role of church and theology in confronting ones own history and experiences with violence. ARSP is actively involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue and attempts to contribute to overcoming anti-Jewish stereotypes in Christian theology. ARSP participates in theological and political debates about the role of remembrance in Germany and in the international context. ARSP also participates in ecumenical discussions on the ethics of peace, as well as inter-religious dialogue.
The interrelation of past and present is perceived as difficult to understand in public debate and especially in discussions about historical memory. Precisely out of this background, active involvement is an important and symbolic contribution. Such an involvement is productive because it requires a deep understanding of others, and is aware of its own limits.
Services for Peace
By participating in peace-oriented activities, ARSP enables different generations to further peace in a self-critical and politically responsible manner. Sustainable peace is made impossible by anti-Semitism, racism, anti-slavism, all kinds of human rights violations, and by social injustice. ARSP pursues a comprehensive interpretation of the concept of peace, which is guided by the ideal of a just peace.
Therefore, ASF is involved in projects which work against discrimination of people because of their religious, political or other convictions, national or social origins, birth, disadvantage and disabilities, age, gender or sexual identity, skin colour or language. Prohibition of these discriminations has been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 as a consequence of the Second World War, and political as well as racial persecution.
The volunteers work with survivors and their descendants, with socially disadvantaged people, e.g. with handicapped persons or with refugees, and in historical/political education programs such as in memorial sites, or anti racism organizations. In the youth encounter centres in Auschwitz and Jerusalem built by ARSP, the organization offers opportunities for international encounters and intercultural understanding to its partner organizations and to other groups.
In Germany ASF organizes campaigns, undertakes public relations efforts, and produces educational materials such as sermon aides and lesson plans for congregations and local groups.
Non-governmental organizations, churches and religious communities are important partners which contribute to a permanent learning process of ARSP concerning the substance and form of its work. Cooperation with these partners is an expression of democratic involvement in civil society.