German churches rapping on youth nonviolence message

By staff writers
February 8, 2007
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Germany's Protestant churches are distributing thousands of postcards in 16 languages to schools and bars as part of a new campaign to encourage young people to get involved in projects to promote social tolerance and non-violence - writes Frauke Brauns from Bielefeld, Germany, for Ecumenical News International (ENI).

"Young people often have a bad image in our society and in our media. We don't agree," declared Bishop Margot Kaessmann at a recent media conference in Hanover to launch the campaign.

The postcards are being given out at schools and at bars to promote the campaign, called "Respect! Youth for Peace", which encourages young people to promote tolerance through initiatives such as videos, rap songs, multicultural parties, and poetry.

"If you are not able to stick up for non-violence when you are young, you will probably never find a way of doing so when you get older," Kaessmann told journalists. "All projects will be posted at a web site to encourage communication and networking of the groups."

Kaessmann and the Greens party politician, Cem Oezdemir, are patrons of the campaign, which is part of the "Decade to Overcome Violence" that was launched by the World Council of Churches in 2001.

The project seeks to attract young people from different ethnic backgrounds, churches and religions. About 150 000 postcards and 20 000 posters have already been distributed to schools. Another 800 000 postcards in Turkish and Russian are to be given out at 38 000 bars.

"We're appealing to young people: Show us and others your 'respect' projects, show us your creativity and interest in living with respect together in a Europe that is continually getting bigger," said Bishop Kaessmann.

The project is sponsored by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the country's main Protestant grouping, and several independent free churches.

The website (in German) can be found at

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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