Last week the 101st “Katholikentag” took place in Münster. According to the organizers, about 90,000 people attended the more than 1,000 events on various topics. The overriding motto for all: “Seek peace”. This was a great opportunity for our peace blog project to set off and ask the participants. We wanted to know: What ideas and expectations do people associate with the term? How broad must peace be defined? Why is it important to talk about this–- especially today, when we are constantly informed daily about all the world’s wars in the news and social media?
Peace has many facets
The “Katholikentag” in Münster begins cloudy but dry. On our arrival at the press counter, the big opening fair is taking place. It is correspondingly quiet at check-in. Equipped with press passes, the cameraman and I start the survey of visitors.
Almost magically we are attracted by a meadow with a row of colorful crosses. They are crosses of World War I war graves designed by students. In an adjacent tent we find a person responsible for this project. Heinrich (66) explains to me: “It is difficult to convey the topic of peace tangibly to young people. Most people can hardly describe peace. But conversely, anyone can talk about war. The image of peace then arises from the opposite image. That was the idea.”
Schoolgirl Barbara (17) adds: “We have designed the crosses with the entire grade. Everyone was asked to put his or her view of the First World War into practice.” This has led to a discussion of the issue. For Barbara, peace is first and foremost justice. Because even on a small scale, she explains to me: Conflicts must be solved fairly so that everyone is satisfied.
Outside the tent we meet a pastor. Barbara, 55 years old, from Oldenburg. For her, peace is first and foremost a topic in the family environment: “I constantly experience how stressful it is when families live in discord with each other. Peace in private life is most important for me when I think about this topic.”
The perspective of Moutsam (20) on the other hand, who fled his homeland Syria before the war, is quite different. For him peace means the absence of war and thus the basis of everything: “Without peace, nothing can be done. Peace is the most important thing, the foundation of our lives. When war is on, everything collapses.”
Peace begins on a small scale
But how can we find our way back from war to peace? 79-year-old Werner from Osnabrück knows all about it. He fled to France with his parents during the Second World War. There he was regarded as – a child (!) – “the enemy”, at school as well as amongst the locals. Nevertheless, he did not let himself be deterred in his search for friendship. “I succeeded. When I now travel from Germany back to France to the village of my childhood, I will be greeted as one of the villagers. No matter what one’s perspective on the subject of peace, Werner says, it is important to start on a small scale and to ensure contentedness and justice. In the long run, this is the only way to live together without conflict.
How about peace in Europe?
For most of our interviewees this topic is still open. Many of the participants of the “Katholikentag” survey find that peace in Europe has so far only partially succeeded. Because, according to the unanimous tenor, although we live here in peace, stability has not yet been achieved in many neighboring countries.
While we capture these voices and continue our journey through Münster and the day, President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier will talk about “Peace through international cooperation” at the Messe- und Kongresscentrum Halle Münsterland. Although the city is secured as needed for statesman’s visit, we do not have the impression of being surrounded by much state authority. Police, security forces, visitors and the many colorful stands – everything blends into a relaxed and peaceful whole. Or, as “Die Welt” so aptly puts it: “The ‘Katholikentag’ really seems to find a home in Münster. This may also be due to the history of the city, where the Thirty Years’ War, which broke out exactly 400 years ago, ended in 1648”.
Everyone can contribute to peace
It is a thoroughly peaceful event that we experience in Münster and the theme of peace is also present in our minds. Accordingly, everyone remembers something about my question: “What can you contribute to the topic of peace yourself?” In my opinion, the best answers were:
- “To meet every man as if he were my brother.” Tobias (34 years)
- “Sleep well and rest within yourself, for only then are you balanced enough for peace.” Michaela (51 years)
- “Be kind to all people and always try to do your best.” Anna-Lena (16 years)
What do you think we – each individual or as a community–- can or should do for “peace”? Write your thoughts and ideas in a comment! Let us start a conversation so that we can contribute to peace as well.
(Cover: Philipp Wildfeuer, result gmbh)