4th FORUM PeaceBread 2018

“For solidarity and confidence – Experiences at the interface of politics and the civil society”

The PeaceBread Association hosted the 4th FORUM PeaceBread on October 16th 2018 with the topic: „For Solidarity and confidence – Experiences at the interface of politics and the civil society“. Moderated by Catarina Zanner from the rbb (Radio Berlin Brandenburg) Maria Michalk, chairwoman of the Council for Sorbian Affiars in Saxonia and Kees de Vries, Dutch-German farmer and politician (Member of the German Parliament Bundestag) emphasized the value of community involvement and referred to a treasure of personal experiences with their families, associations and also politics. The 4th FORUM PeaceBread took place once again in cooperation with the Berlin Club of Agricultural Diplomats and the Berlin Wall Foundation.

Berlin, October, 16: A next „wow“ was promised by PeaceBread board member Adalbert Kienle to the approximately 50 guests in his opening address of the 4th FORUM PeaceBread. The previous discussion rounds have been an experience for all participants and with regard to this years discussion partners Maria Michalk, chairwoman of the Council for Sorbian Affairs in Saxonia and Kees de Vries, Dutch- German farmer and politician (Member of the German Parliament Bundestag) nothing else than another „wow-experience“ is to expected.

Kienle also mentioned in his opening address that he has passed the baton of the first chairman of the PeaceBread Association to the longstanding board member Anton Blöth at the preceding general assembly of the Association. He was also proud of the fact that the FORUM has become by now a platform for the dialogue about peace and solidarity, agriculture, the countryside and people and has also found a very suiting venue at the visitors center of the Berlin Wall Memorial.

Because of this Kienle thanked the Prof. Dr. Axel Klausmeier, the director of the Berlin Wall Foundation, profoundly for the hospitality and valuable support for the PeaceBread project. In the same manner Kienle thanked the representative of the Berlin Club of Agricultural Diplomats, the Dutch Ambassy Counsellor Peter Vermeij, for the longstanding cooperation and partnership to establish and fortify the European PeaceBread network.

Gibfried Schenk, managing director of the PeaceBread Association informed the guests about the eventful year for the Association and the European PeaceBread network. Many diverse talks were conducted and partnerships were fortified. A special concern for Schenk and the PeaceBread Association was the gratitude towards Adalbert Kienle for his inspirational company and longstanding leadership of the PeaceBread Association as the First Chairman. As a special sign of gratitude and recognition for his engagement Anton Blöth und Gibfried Schenk awarded him a certificate that honors him as first and so far only PeaceBread Ambassodor in Germany; a tradition and honour that is only given to well-deserved supporters and patrons of the PeaceBread network in the European partner countries.

The value and symbolism of the rye field by the Chapel of Reconcilition was underlined by Prof. Dr. Axel Klausmeier. Not the agronomic yield but the rather irritating contribution of a rye field in the middle of the former Death Strip of the once divided city is of elemental significance for the Memorial along Bernauer Street – because contradictions provoke and questions are beeing introduced. But in a good agricultural manner the field has also to be taken care of, more specifically a soil improvement is to be administered to ensure the yield in the coming years. Klausmeier sees the PeaceBread Association as a „natural“ partner who internationalizes the symbolism of the rye field on the basis of shared values, brings people into conversations and keeps the confusion and admoniton of the German and European partition in memory

Peter Vermeij, Ambassy Counsellor of the Netherlands and by now the President of the Club of Agricultural Diplomats in Berlin mentioned his first encounter with those responsible for the PeaceBread Association and his talks about the reunification, the rye field and the closer link between peace and agriculture, which have brought up his own memories and emotions to the surface. It became clear for him, that within the PeaceBread Association something significant happens that has the power to connect people. It also fills him with joy that the Club of Agricultural Diplomats contributes – and will contribute in the future – to this.

Under the headline: „Polity needs dedicated people“ the press service AgraEurope summed up the discussion at the FORUM with Maria Michalk and Kees de Vries that was moderated for the fourth time now by Catarina Zanner from the RBB (Radio Berlin Brandenburg). With the kind permission of the author the crucial passages of this summary and his impressions of the lively tale which was enriched by biographic impressions are rendered here:

„Michalk started during the peaceful revolution to engage herself in politics. The CDU-politician was a member of the freely elected Volkskammer (Parliament of the GDR) from March until October 1990. From 1991 until 1994 and from 2001 until 2017 Michalk was a member of the German parliament Bundestag and was lastly the spokeswomen on health for her fraction. It was obvious for her at the time of the reunification that „we cannot refuse ourselfs“. The necessity to care for the interests of the local people and to have an open ear for their problems was mentioned by Michalk as the basis of her work. The 69 year old is the chairwoman of the Council for Sorbian Affairs and still very intensely involved with interests of the minority in the Upper- and Lower Lusatia. Michalk emphasized the importance of voluntary work and its value for the peaceful coexistence of diverse population groups several times.“

„The member of the German Parliament Bundestag de Vries counts 13 voluntary engagements his own. Originally from the Netherlands de Vries came to the Eastern part of Germany at the beginning of the 90ties and took over a former agricultural cooperative (LPG) near Zerbst. The German reunification gave him and his wife the chance to take the plunge from a small farm in the Netherlands to a bigger agricultural business with dairy cattle. De Vries tells of many difficulties that came with development of business, but they were overcome in the end. His voluntary engagement began with being a part of the parents council at his childrens school and lead him into politics by taking a detour over representing the interests of his professional group. After a close failure in 2009 with his candidacy de Vries was nominated for the first time in 2013 as the CDU- candidate for his constituency in Anhalt. At the elections for the German parliament Bundestag the 63 year old won the direct mandate. De Vries demanded more individual engament for Europe: „We have to explain the concept of Europe more and why we need it.“ Europe is the guarantor for prosperity and freedom. This has to be defended in the face of growing scepticsm towards the concept of Europe. For him attitude is the key: „One has to stand for something.“

Following the discussion round Anton Blöth, the new first chairman of the PeaceBread Association drew a positive conclusion of the 4th FORUM PeaceBread and thanked all contributors with a present, a bread baked with „Berlin Wall Rye“ from the site of the Berlin Wall Memorial baked by the Domberger Bakery. He also thanked the other supporters and patrons of the event which will be continued for sure next year. The discussion round has shown that dedicated people are needed who are taking responsibility for the polity in family, businesses, clubs, associations and politics. With Maria Michalk and Kees de Vries one got to know two of these protagonists. By their biographies and depictions it becomes clear that societal cohesion, peace always, are not a matter of fact and a sure-fire success any more. Hard work and the will to say „yes“ to a service to society are required. PeaceBread is an offer to such dedicated people . As a platform for encounters and discussions the PeaceBread network offerd to talk with each other not about each other over borders and over the edge of ones own plate.

Pictures: Roland Krieg und Christian Horn.

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