In between all sport activities, while the world was looking into the direction of London to the Olympic Games, many other small events happened around the globe. Little things making less sound, little things which are not of interest to almost everyone, but little things which are important for us, for social relations, for international communication, for letting us taking part in global matters.
The Humanist Freethinker Association Brandenburg from Germany, one of the founding members of IHEYO, had not only one main attraction in 2012. To start, the main anniversary of the year was the 20 years anniversary of the coming of age ceremonies, which has a long religious tradition of more than 150 years in Germany. In 1992, shortly after the wall destruction, the Humanist Freethinker Association started its youth work offering non-religious teenagers a possibility of becoming symbolically an adult in our society as alternative to the religious coming of age ceremonies. 20 years are not a really long time, when we see how much time are needed in our world for big changes. Nevertheless the changes are made by the humanist association.
In the early birth after the reunion of East and West Germany and the social changes in the German society have shown lots of challenges and difficulties already in the last years, so its of worth to look behind the curtain. Next to a marriage and anniversary birthdays, the becoming out of age ceremony is quite important in the German humanist world. Due to the separation of West and East, traditions of religious roots or humanist worldviews have been developed quite differently. So nowadays we still have more people in the East and new part of Germany celebrating the humanist so called „Jugendfeier“ than having a religious communion in the protestant or catholic church. Old East German symbols (GDR) and old-fashioned understanding made the development of the Jugendfeier not easy. It took a lot of strength and motivation to wash the picture clean and free of stereotypes and nostalgic beliefs. It changed and the Jugendfeier is now an accepted opportunity of each non-confessional teenager closing its childhood officially with a celebration of becoming an adult. Well, we will not become a different person just within one day, but it is the same with a celebration like the International Women Day. People learn to recognize and accept changes easier due to official events like that. So happy Birthday Jugendfeier and hope you will become an old person.
The second traditional event for the Humanist Freethinker Association Brandenburg was created by the 16th round of the German-Indian Exchange programme between the Atheist Centre in Vijayawada, India and the HFB, Germany. 8 Indian were guests from 26 July till 10 August in Germany. Due to the close contact between these two organisations over 16 years now, it has been possible to send around 50 Indian people and 100 Germans to a foreign country. They have been able to use their knowledge as multipliers for a better cultural understanding, tolerance and support which goes beyond just a friendly relation of two organisations in two countries.
This kind of relationship started to influence IHEYO as well: it opened the door to the 5th IHEYO Conference that happened in 2006 in India. Although this exchange programme seems to hold still a unique position inside all IHEYO member organisations and other organisations we know, it was an example for some members to think about and prepare possibilities for exchanges like that.
Long-term projects have a lot of advantages, but it has been never easy. Politicians always encourage going for long-term ideas, but exactly these people make fundraising beyond the 5th project round more than difficult. While an innovative programme which has showed its special value and uniqueness already has to develop more and more. And the world changed as well. It isn’t bad, but it does not make things easier. When we look back to 1996 as we started, the Indian world was far away from ours. No facebook in our surrounding, just a small clue of a computer at home and someone telling you there is something like internet coming over the globe. We still wrote letters and waited some weeks for an answer from our friends. Yahoo messenger and other chat possibilities brought a surprised laughter and so much easiness into our communication.
The computer era started into its full use during the period of exchange programme. It was the birth of IHEYO. It was also the keeping alive story of the exchange programme between Germany and India. People joined, people met over chat channels, skype and other social media. Today we are all part of a global family, we already know people from more than one country, but still the heart is close to India, the start of our foreign travels. It will be a different country for someone else: it will be not understandable for a person, who has seen India from a different perspective. We had luck. We found a place like home, a second family, right now part of just the one family you know. But still it changed. 16 years of setting up exchanges are a real long time. We had cultural shocks; we had people fell in love not only with the country. We had personal changes as we were influenced for our lifetime. We talk about human rights, we talked about the Tsunami, we talked about religion and society, lifestyles and stances, castes and social weakness, and we talk about love and marriage.
Now after 16 year or less some of us are already grown up. Becoming an adult, becoming married in an arranged or self chosen way. Some new exchange generations are already among us, but also the younger generation from today changed. In Germany, in India. The global world made distances smaller, a lot of youngsters are involved in the global network, cannot survive without any technology like social media and their mobile phone. So, do we still need an exchange programme in which people fly to former foreign countries to learn a bollywood dance or Yoga? Isn´t that India? We already know so much about other countries, so what makes an exchange attractive enough to join? Its hard to describe as this is similar to music. If words would be enough to explain, we would not need music anymore. And words are not enough for an exchange as well. How can I describe the feeling which we had with the first step coming to India? How can one describe the first taste eating a pomegranate directly from the market? And the first contact with a bugging handicapped person, having no legs and lower body coming across on a skateboard to me on the street? Nobody is ever preparing you for things like this. We are talking and explaining quite a lot in every preparation before starting to join an exchange group, but you can never do this to 100%. Each person is reacting in another way. We come to know people, which we would never meet in life, but these meetings give us so many opportunities for ourselves and a wide horizon.
I wish every child, every youngster would get once in life the possibility to be part of an exchange to learn and see new things. To forget about stubbornness, to forget about problems which are not really a huge issue. To compare and discuss misunderstandings and questions of life. And to become brave and more human to an open and widespread view into the world far away from tourism. I wish this so badly. Who knows, maybe for that reason IHEYO is the right answer for it?