European Sentiments: Beyond Pro and Anti

European Sentiments: Beyond Pro and Anti

European Sentiments is a unique, innovative, and collaborative project that aims to create true dialogue among EU citizens holding different views on the topic of euro-skepticism, linked directly to specific EU measures. The training will use the Restorative Circle approach to launch a series of talking Circles in 9 cities across five countries in Europe (Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Greece and Italy).

As our political discourse in Denmark becomes more and more polarised, there appears to be less listening and more trying to convince others through a well-rehearsed argument. The restorative circle approach breaks through this win-lose debate style and supports an atmosphere of listening, sharing and learning. Rather than making ‘the other’ more distant, bringing different perspectives together in this way allows for this gap to be closed – seeing that the values and needs of ‘the other’ are in fact shared among all. The power of this method is through this experience.

European Sentiments will take place the last weekend of each month, starting in January 2017 and ending in June. 50 participants total will take part. There will be 25 in each workshop, and each person will participate in three weekends.

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Europæiske Fornemmelser er et dialogprojekt, der vil forene og forbinde folk på tværs af forskellige forståelser om Europa. Den voksende polarisering indenfor Europa, senest symboliseret af Brexit, kræver en ny måde at diskutere og tale om sociale og politiske emner på; en tilgang der kan bygge bro mellem folk med modstridende holdninger.

Europæiske Fornemmelser vil igennem dialogworkshops fremme samtale og forståelse mennesker imellem. Workshoppen bruger metoden Restorative Circles til at bryde med den typiske politiske debatstil og i stedet skabe en lyttende og delende læringsproces. I stedet for at gøre ”den anden” mere fjern, binder metoden folk sammen på tværs af holdninger.

Europæiske Fornemmelser har som mål at nuancere deltagernes forståelse for forskellige politiske holdninger, og for Europa som en social, kulturel og politisk størrelse, der – om vi vil det eller ej – påvirker os på et personligt og fællesmenneskeligt plan.

Europæiske Fornemmelser er den danske del af det inter-europæiske projekt The Restorative Circles for Citizens in Europe, støttet af Europe For Citizens. Projektet finder sted samtidigt i 13 byer fordelt på 5 lande: Danmark, Tyskland, Ungarn, Grækenland og Italien.

Europæiske Fornemmelser koordineres af MellemEducation, en dansk organisation, der arbejder med demokratiforståelse, gruppeprocesser og menneskerettigheder (

Europæiske Fornemmelser vil foregå over 6 weekender i foråret 2017, hvor i alt 50 deltagere vil deltage i 3 workshops hver.

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Muslim Jewish Conference 2015

There is definitely a magic in the air at the Muslim Jewish Conference. Individuals from different religions and cultures, who have heard so much about the ‘other’, get a chance to find out the individuality in each other, through the traditions and cultures given by their group. This is an amazing idea. Take people who, in some parts of the world, have learnt that they are enemies, and give them a chance to get to know one another. The very basic formula of getting to know the other to be free of prejudices works its magic throughout the week.

In one way, you really don’t need any more than this. Everything else is an excuse to fill up the time so that this learning of each other can take place. The scheduled sessions give the mind a framework that people are used to (from school, academia, etc.), but the beauty and the ‘real work’ take place in conversations and exchanges.


The people choosing to come to this conference have applied and gotten accepted. This means that they are already open to these kinds of exchanges, that they have already passed that ‘first step’ and on some level acknowledge the need for such an exchange in our complex and divisive world. Therefore, there are those who, in addition to this exchange, would value an even deeper look into the issues embedded into our complex world, and which cause such an exchange to be so necessary and important right now.

The structure of the MJC relies on our existing hierarchal structures. Top down leadership makes decisions for the masses at the bottom. In this case, the decisions are based on shared values of peace, understanding, collaboration, solidarity, so the dominant bulldozing leadership style is largely forgiven, in fact even applauded and appreciated. After all, it is this bulldozing that fought so hard for the space to be created so that this exchange can take place.

But I’d like to offer the depth that I felt somewhat missing in the MJC by looking exactly at this dilemma, which is not unique to this conference but to the general approach of ‘changemaking’ in the NGO world. If there is a leadership, there are followers. The more successful such a conference gets, without a dose of self-reflection, the more this divide grows. Eventually, the same model that we are so trying to get away from is replicated – one group that knows what’s best for another. One group that considers themselves the ‘good’ ones, that need to ‘fight’ the ‘bad ones’ out in the world. This is not so far from any fundamentalist mentality.

Don’t misunderstand me – coming together and working together towards a peaceful world IS an evolution. Following a leader who advocates non-violence will ensure more safety than following a leader who uses division for power and conquest. But these two groups are existing in the same world, and we cannot ‘fix’ the world by subscribing to the “better” group. This feels good, eases our sense of morality, and allows us to escape from the frustration and destruction of the current model. But what if creates just as much division? What if the comfort in belonging to this new group prevents us from digging deeper into ourselves? What if following a leader, no matter what they stand for, is preventing us from discovering our own freedom? It’s much easier to have answers than questions.

When MJC is presented as an answer, a solution, we stop thinking. I’m writing this article because I’m a huge supporter of the MJC, not as an answer, but as part of a process.

I’ve heard a few times during the week some version of the statement that ‘every human being needs to belong’ to a group. I’d like to ask – why? Why is it that we need to belong? This would be a great question to explore on the first day. Every person has their own reflection on that question. You can explore the answer by thinking about the situation where you didn’t belong, and facing the feelings that come up. Is belonging a running away from these feelings? And if so, what is it that we are trying to avoid?

From what I see, this kind of self-reflection has been largely left out of our education system. Every person, if they choose, delves into this practice on their own – either through a religion, a spiritual practice, a psychological exploration, or in relationships. Looking at yourself from the inside is considered something we do on our own. This is again a division – the ‘me’ for myself and the ‘me’ for the world, the ‘me’ that IS and the ‘me’ that does, my work life and social life, the ‘me’ around my family and the ‘me’ around my friends. Division is conflict. It might not always be experienced that way (the term ‘conflict’ has a combative connotation), but if you look at internal conflicts, there is a part of me that wants this, and a part of me that wants that – the ‘me’ is split.

So why is this important? This self-exploration helps us understand ourselves. If we don’t understand ourselves, how can we understand the other? At MJC understanding the other is one of the core goals. On one level, this is done through discussing religious narratives, personal stories, and sharing traditions. This works, on this level, and will continue to work if MJC continues in the same way. But after a while, this will not be enough. This euphoric experience will blend itself very easily into self-righteousness, and the “we are the good ones” phenomenon will make us less connected, not more.

The MJC team works incredibly hard, and you can almost sense the despair in their ambition. How else can we live with ourselves if we don’t do this work? How can we not push as hard as we can for what we believe is right and good? And if the choices are despair and euphoria, who wouldn’t choose the blue pill?

I had to write this for fear of turning one Matrix into another. There is indeed a magic at the MJC, but without more in-depth conversations and explorations, this magic can be a topical potion just to numb the pain for a while. The pain, however, is still there. And we eventually are going to have to take a good, hard look at it.

Preventing Violence through Self-Knowledge

I have been intensely interested in learning my whole life.  Gaining information was one kind of knowledge, but I have always been particularly inspired by learning about the self. This is the kind of knowledge that is not accumulated.  In fact, you have to go through a process of unlearning to see your true self.  This is something I found out by continuously digging and digging.  It turns out that while discovering the self, I got myself out of the way. It turns out that this digging was in fact clearing out the dirt so as to see clearly.  In a sense, it was learning to get rid of knowledge.  The knowledge about myself, in the form of identity, personality, psychological behaviors, was no longer useful for me.  This is my little revolution that I would like to share.

Academic institutions have developed theories upon theories to explain human behavior.  Practitioners have taken these theories and formed ‘methods’, ways of applying theories to tell us how to analyse ourselves and therefore be better people.  But these theories and methods always seemed to create a distance – the theory and the practice, learning about something outside of yourself.  I once went to a conference about Conflict Resolution and asked a very simple question, “does learning about violence prevent violence?”.  The speaker responding presented me with theories and histories and then the slight doubt of “I’m not sure if I answered your question.”  I said “no”, and we moved on.

But let’s look at this simple question more deeply.  Does learning about violence prevent violence?  It’s not a trick question.  If the answer is yes, then I would like to know how.  It seems to me that we are continuously studying our violent histories and continuously being violent.  Learning about past wars is not actually preventing any wars.  It has become a conditioned cliche to say that if we learn from our mistakes, we do not repeat them, but we in fact repeat them every day! Can we stop to really think about this deeply, and not take cliches as truths?

The other answer is that learning about violence does not actually prevent violence, and therefore my follow up question is “why are we doing it?”  Is it for our own self-interest?  Is it to come up with another theory and get recognized for it?  If this is so, we do not have to concentrate so much on it, just acknowledge it and move on.  But the more interesting question to concentrate on would then be – how do we prevent violence?

And the answer to this comes back to my little revolution about self-knowledge.  To know how to prevent violence, we have to know why violence occurs.  I mean violence in the sense of conflict, division, and war.  The immediate answer, the one we are used to automatically going to, is looking outside of ourselves – violence is caused by the greedy, the hateful, the angry, the racist – basically, the other.  But what if violence is caused by this idea that there is an ‘other’? and therefore this idea that there is a ‘you’ separate from the ‘other’?  In order to look at this more deeply, you have to look a bit at yourself.  This is the hardest part.  Most people feel comfortable in talking about someone else’s conflict.  To look at your own is not something we learn how to do in our education system.  To look at your own means to acknowledge fear, loneliness, sorrow.  Mostly we want to run away from these emotions by covering them up with our search for solutions, theories, our morality about the right way to live.  But since these moralities differ in each person, the sense of morality itself might be the divider here.

I started to break down my own borders by just taking a look at how I have defined these borders.  My nationality, religion, personality, past experiences, judgements – all these entities are only making a border between me and you.  The belief in these entities causes violence.  Now the mind will try to immediately jump to a conclusion – “don’t judge”.  And this is a subtle trick of the mind.  “Don’t judge” is another morality that divides.  The idea is to constantly recognise and be aware of these mind tricks. Preventing violence is not an act of ‘doing’ or ‘not doing’ but of seeing.  It is not to stop judging, because that is impossible, but it’s to recognise and see these judgements.  When you can see the judgement, then you are not the judgement.

I am not an authority on self-knowledge.  To say this would mean that we have a hierarchy on seeing truth.  I’ll leave that up to organised religion.  The people who inspired me did so not as authorities but as people who challenged me to keep looking within, because they looked within and saw me as no different from them. If you are me, then we have nothing to fight about.

From Little Things Big Things Grow

by Emma Liddy

 IMG_001-015Religious holidays are celebrated all over the world. The people, places, beliefs and times change; but it would be difficult to find anyone who has grown up without having experienced tradition; the lead up to and participation in marking the occasion, whatever occasion that might be. These holidays become part of our identity, regardless of how relevant the holiday or the religion is. The tradition and ritual takes on its own meaning to us, the coming and going of these festivities mark the progression of the year just like the seasons. The holiday continues to be a part of us either because we continue to celebrate it, or because we make a conscious decision not to.


In the home I grew up in we celebrated religious holidays, like Christmas and Easter, with custom and ritual. Our traditions were built around the food we shared, the games we played, and the music we listened to; religion never really came into it. These days came around every year and unfolded like a well rehearsed play. With devotion my mother would cook a heavy Danish Christmas lunch in the heat of an Australian summer. Christmas carols would be given a little time before we switched back to Bob Dylan or Paul Kelly, our homegrown folk singing hero. As I’ve grown older, the Christian element of these days has slid almost entirely into oblivion, but I continue to recreate the smells and tastes and sounds and celebrate these holidays in this way, because that is part of who I am.


Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of broadening my holiday horizons with some new faces, new smells, new tastes and new songs – and for me at least, a new holiday. It was a Passover Seder, a Jewish custom to celebrate freedom from slavery. It was organised by an Israeli-American friend of mine. She wanted to recognise the holiday, a way to connect with that part of her identity. But she also wanted to share the experience. Instead of letting religion define the night and decide who should enjoy all the fun, this would be open. Passover for everyone.


Around thirty people came to be a part of the evening. Most of us didn’t know each other beforehand and had found out about the event through friends or on facebook. We had prepared a couple of traditional Seder dishes; matzah ball soup, gefilte fish. We sang some of the songs special to this holiday. We dipped parsley in salt water and marked our plates with drops of wine for each of the plagues the Jews were protected from, as the story goes. It’s these things that made it a Passover celebration. But there was more to this Passover Seder than these customs.


This was Passover for everyone. So what does that mean? To list us by countries, we were from Denmark, Sweden, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, Greece, Congo, Sudan, USA. Of course some had celebrated passover before, but many of us hadn’t. I think it’s fair to say that some people there would never have believed they would one day find themselves sitting around that table, in that company, celebrating that holiday.


The people who came each brought with them a personal history. In many cases those personal histories, identities, are tangled up in bigger histories; in conflict and war, race and religion, oppression and the search for freedom. It was inevitable there would be different perspectives here. At one point, fairly early in the evening, it seemed the differences might be too big. Someone was asked where they were from and answered Palestine. The answer wasn’t good enough for the person asking the question – they don’t believe Palestine exists.


It was essentially the opposite of what we’d been hoping for the night. The evening was supposed to be about celebrating freedom. It was an attempt to take an event saturated in culture and religion and renew it by breaking down the boundaries religion and culture can create. The hope was to find the common ground we share as people, people who believe in freedom. This refusal to accept another person’s identity was not part of the plan.


Not everyone heard the conversation. Those who did responded differently. I can only speak for myself. At first I was horrified. I didn’t want the night to end in conflict. I hoped no one would feel they needed to leave. And no one did leave, no one shouted or yelled or threatened or abused. Instead of being a spark to blow the evening apart, I think this moment became the binding, the meaning for us all being there.


It was a stark reminder of a conflict that is easy to think of as unresolvable. But what followed was remarkable. People continued to talk to strangers and ask them who they were, where they came from. We finished eating. We kept drinking wine. There was dancing and laughing and serious conversation. It sparked discussion. Some people were upset but they were allowed to be. The division and difference between the people there was overwhelmed by decency and tolerance.


If a dominant mindset had forced one of those two to leave, and determined that one set of ideas was unwelcome, the entire meaning of the evening would have been destroyed. It would no longer have been Passover for everyone, but Passover for people who think like us. Instead that evening achieved what many people around the world would consider to be impossible.


To witness that happening was an extraordinary thing for me. And from the conversations I had that night I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way. The next morning reflecting on it all with my housemates, I was reminded of one of the songs from my personal history. That homegrown folk singer who makes up the soundtrack to my holidays tells a story in one of his songs about the struggle for identity and freedom of the Indigenous people of Australia. It’s called ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’.


It’s hard to tell if the story of this night will make any sense to people who weren’t there themselves, just like that song that might not make sense to many people in this hemisphere. But what I experienced that night was that a small gathering of people in a university building in Copenhagen can defy what decades or centuries of conflict and bloodshed would define as possible. And I don’t think I was the only one who felt that. So if the people there can take that experience, that expanded sense of possibility, then we don’t always have to be boxed in as opposite people or opposite sides. It’s from these little things that big things grow.


Intercultural Communication

Mellem Education offers workshops in training in intercultural communication, including inter-faith projects, and community-based initiatives which aim to bring together diverse groups on a select topic.

Through a series of interactive workshops and reflection sessions, participants break down the social construction of the term ‘culture’, thereby exploring the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.  Groups are given real-life challenges to work through as well as relevant issues within their own communities.

The methodology used is very interactive and conversation-driven,  and all levels of expertise can benefit from this program.  Mellem offers the Interculture Communication track to schools, workplaces and communities.

Personal Democracy

The perceived gap that some say exists between the democratic system and the individual can distance a person from participating in the political process. Principles that form the foundation of a democratic system can also be applied to everyday life, and conversely, individual life experiences can shape the political process. Interactive, experiential workshops play a large role in linking these two spheres, connecting the individual to the system through the group process.

As part of Mellem’s Personal Democracy program, the Betzavta seminar, invented and developed by the Adam Institute in Israel, is implemented.  Betzavta uses games and interactive activities to explore the democratic decision-making process in a more personal way, thereby giving the participants a more fundamental understanding of democracy. This helps them view democracy not only as a system in which they function but as a way of life, in which they can reflect on their own roles and responsibilities. The Betzavta seminar best functions as an immersive experience,
rather than a series of disjointed workshops.

In the Personal Democracy program, the following thee options are offered:

1. Immersive 4-5 day training: The Betzavta program is offered in this training.  This program, meaning “togetherness” in Hebrew, presents a creative conflict resolution strategy for democracy education.  Decision making is at the core of this seminar, and democratic principles are explored through this decision making process: equality, freedom, majorities, minorities, communication and conflict.  As participants work through a fun and at times rigorous interactive process, they are faced with dilemmas and are given strategies to move from conflict to dilemma to resolution.

The International adaptation of the Betzavta program began in 1996, initially in Germany at the Centre for Applied Political Research (Centrum für angewandte Politikforschung) at the University of Munich, then subsequently through the Adam Institute cooperating with international partners in Northern Ireland, Switzerland and South-East Europe.

Participation in all 4-5 days is mandatory, and the group size is limited, to ensure maximum efficacy (max: 20 participants).

2. 1-2 day training:  A less intensive training using the same principles as the above but taking into account the priorities of the intended audience.  Participants should still fully participate, but the group can be slightly larger.

3. One off workshop:  This option is available for conferences, guest lecturing and other opportunities where only an hour or two are allotted.  This gives a taste of some of the activities and is a starting point for discussions about educational conflict management and personal democracy.

All workshops can be delivered in a diverse audience, considering different ages and abilities.  The first option is required for a “train the trainers” seminar.

Mellem’s philosophy is one that looks past the barriers of nationality, religion and culture in order to unify people based on their common humanity.

 Click here to read more about Betzavta.