A bridge to Ukraine

8 July 2022, 15:31

While the international community focuses entirely on the war effort and on humanitarian aid, very little is being done to silence the weapons and to give voice to the people. That’s why we have built a new bridge: to support the Ukrainian youth’s nonviolence grassroots initiatives as they strive to build a stable and lasting peace.

Di Martina Pignatti Morano, Head of Programs.
Photo by Valerio Nicolosi.

 

The Romanian city of Cluj lies very close to the Ukrainian border, and is where the Norwegian educator Kaj Jacobsen decided to set up his renowned center for peacebuilding training and support, PATRIR. UPP has been working with him and his team since 2008 on advocacy in Italy for the Civilian Peace Corps, the foundation of movements for nonviolent resistance throughout the Middle East, and together we established the first project for social cohesion and reconciliation when Iraq’s Niniveh regions were liberated from Daesh.

In that same period, PATRIR was working with Civil Society in various Eastern European countries on the Crimea Policy Dialogue (2009 – 2014), as part of a pan-European concerted effort, funded by the Finnish government, to end conflict in the region.

When Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, many refugees fled to the city of Cluj, and the PATRIR field workers realized they had to a new challenge to face. They immediately got down to work, transforming their centers into collection points for basic needs items and they began coordinating the work of humanitarian aid agencies and Romanian aid provision centers, to ensure efficient action. Over just a few months, 40 PATRIR convoys delivered more than 500 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including food, medicine and medical equipment.

While working on humanitarian aid distribution, with financial support from Un Ponte Per, PATRIR also launched an international appeal to all European nonviolence associations and institutions for support with peacebuilding education, training and initiatives.

This was the foundation of All for Peace, which UPP joined in March 2022, with the shared objective of sending a delegation to Ukraine to identify associations working on nonviolent resistance, the documentation of war crimes, the defense of conscientious objectors, civil peacebuilding and peacekeeping and trauma management, particularly amongst the youth. As new information emerged, revealing the enormous courage of broad swathes of the Ukrainian civilian population who, unarmed, stood up to the Russian occupation using civil resistance, by blocking the passage of tanks into towns with nonviolent marches and refusing to collaborate with the occupying forces.

It also revealed how the Ukrainian Government wanted to demonize the enemy and foment the population’s fury towards whoever showed support for Russia. Security chat groups used to issue vital warnings of bombing raids to thousands of people every day, distributed photos of the many atrocities committed by Russian soldiers.  There were increasing numbers of people who believed that a true Ukrainian must speak Ukrainian, even if their mother tongue was Russian; that conscientious objectors were traitors and that young people focusing on humanitarian aid, instead of fighting, were unpatriotic.

This inevitable polarization of opinions, provoked by the conflict, convinced pacifists like us that we had to do everything possible to encourage social cohesion within the Ukrainian population.

Together with PARTIR, we identified the following three local partners to help us meet the challenge of nonviolent conflict transformation and war-related trauma management in young people:

The Institute for Peace and Common Ground (IPCG), an NGO with 25 years of experience in dialogue facilitation to help communities adopt sustainable change in conflict situations; the Ukrainian wing of Nonviolence International, which established the Ukrainian Stop the War coalition (USWC) in support of nonviolent resistance to the Russian occupation; and the All Ukraine Youth Centers (AUYC), which manages 31 youth centers throughout the country, under the aegis of the Ministry for Sport and Youth. Before the war, their focus was informal education, but now they are working as sorting centers for humanitarian assistance and first aid.

Thanks to the financial support of the Soka Gakkai Italian Buddhism Institute through their ‘8×1000’ tax-based charitable wing, which immediately grasped the importance of peacebuilding initiatives in Ukraine, UPP will be working with PATRIR and these three associations from July to December 2022 on three specific goals; to analyze and raise international awareness of social cohesion and nonviolence initiatives launched in Ukraine during the war, including a visit to Brussels by a delegation of young Ukrainians so they can share their ideas with the European Union;

to enhance the skills of young men and women, civil society and educational institutions, through specially designed training sessions and teaching material, to help them develop peacebuilding, trauma management and first aid initiatives; to assist youth and civil society organizations with media campaigns to highlight concepts of peace, nonviolence and trauma resilience to the population and their government.

However, to ensure the total financial sustainability of this project and expand it to include some independent Russian anti-war media outlets, we need your support.

Un Ponte Per Ukraine is launching a heart-felt appeal for donations!

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