Course for Workers in Areas of Regeneration and Peacebuilding in Vukovar, Croatia

It is now 20 years since the Balkan wars began in 1991. Vukovar was almost completely destroyed in that year.  There were atrocities on all sides. When Charles Tauber came in 1995, there were almost no buildings that were not at least partially destroyed.

Vukovar’s history dates back 6000 years.  The first calendar in Europe was found in Vinkovci, 20 kilometers southeast of the town, which is on the Danube and at the crossroads of many travel routes, and which played host to many ethnic groups. Before 1991, there were at least 25 ethnic groups and 10 religions in the region.

Now, Vukovar has become an icon of nationalism.  It is a place to which politicians come and manipulate ordinary people and do nothing.  Schools, cafés, sports clubs, and health facilities are formally or informally segregated.  While people still live next door to one another, they frequently do not speak to one another or do so only formally.  People are identifiable by their accents, which they call languages.

While the town has been about two-thirds rebuilt, there has been virtually no social reconstruction and there is little work going on on healing and reconciliation.

This fall, we are undergoing a long and difficult period of nationalism.  There are many commemorations of events.  Politicians come, whip up nationalist sentiments, and leave.  This period will continue at least until after the Croatian elections in December.

The CWWPP/local group of InterChange is working on these problems, with great resistance.  We believe that “everyone can be a peacebuilder”.  We have started a program of sensitization/public education.  Here, we have a problem that people are not used to the concept of civil society.  They also think that it is shameful to obtain psychological assistance.  Virtually everyone has one or another psychological problem from the war.  Drugs are the only treatment available, except for our work.  Thus, sensitization of people to talking about their lives and to working together is essential.  By creating mental health, we believe that there will be a positive spiral in health and healing.

Further, we are working on the Course for Workers in Areas of Regeneration (CWIAR).  Charles has been giving this course person-to person since the late 1980s to people in The Netherlands and here.  It is highly participatory and lasts for about 120 hours, and includes work on communication, psychology, civil society, non-violent conflict transformation, and human rights. The idea is to give people with little or no education in these fields sufficient knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work in their communities.  We are now completing the manual for the course.  As each module is completed, it will be put onto the CWWPP website (www.cwwpp.org) and sent to InterChange members.  We are developing an online version of the course. We welcome the participation of members of InterChange in this development, which we feel will help everyone be a peacebuilder.

Article written by Charles Tauber and Sandra Mari?. Contact Charles and Sandra at cwwppsummer@gmail.com.

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