Every year Action Reconciliation Service for Peace sends about 180 women and men to countries that particularly suffered under the Nazi regime: Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine, the United States and Belarus. The volunteers are mostly young people between 18 and 27.
The volunteers support and accompany survivors of the Shoah and their descendants, they work in memorial centres, care for old and handicapped persons as well as for socially disadvantaged people and refugees. The participants work in community projects and anti-racism initiatives. The long-term volunteer service not only supports the work of our partner organizations; it is also a further step to bring understanding across borders. The various meetings with people in a foreign country makes ARSP volunteers gain inter-cultural knowledge that may characterize their future lives. The volunteers also learn about the direct effects of history on the present.
In the framework of the accompanying pedagogical program the participants discuss with young adults of the host countries about their identities, collective and individual memories and about political, social and religious commitment. The dialogue strengthens their consciousness of the further development of history and, at the same time, encourages them to continue to stand up for a open society based on human rights.
Every year since 1996, between 15 and 20 volunteers from the United States, Eastern Europe, Israel and other countries have been joining peace services in Germany. The volunteers bring ample religious, social, political, and cultural experiences and a lot of curiosity. Their distinctive interpretations of how history effects our present lives, of the meaning of peace and the definition of political action promotes an equal inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. The guests discuss interesting topics with the German participants of the program, discovering similarities and differences and developing their intercultural competence. By joining social and educational-political projects, they build bridges of understanding.
Since 2001, this program has offered the possibility for German and Polish adolescents to work together in social and historical-political institutions in Great Britain. Against the background of their different cultural origins, they engage themselves in an important and exciting process of understanding and reconciliation between Poles and Germans. Because the program is realised in a third country and includes British youngsters, the participants from Germany and Poland meet as equals. In a lively trialogue the participants are able to develop a different look on their own history, the history of others and the relationship between history and contemporary daily life. The discussion about current European politics and about their own experiences during the projects helps to tear down prejudices and clichés and the participants learn to respect each other.