Democracy is not achieved by just sitting on the spectator’s bench: Respectful mutual dialogue is a challenge in troubled times

Berlin, October 18th 2016: 2.FORUM PeaceBread

The number of activities of the PeaceBread-project was and is large. More than positive was and is the feedback of members and the public in general. This conclusion was drawn by the chairman Adalbert Kienle and the managing director Dr. Gibfried Schenk after this year’s member assembly of the PeaceBread Association on October 18th 2016. This was also confirmed by the following public FORUM PeaceBread 2016 at the visitor’s centre of the Berlin Wall Memorial.

Respectful mutual dialogue is a permanent task and challenge especially in troubled times. Democracy is not achieved by just sitting on the spectator’s bench. Therefore all the more important is the exchange of general relations of agriculture, peace and remembrance. This was emphasized by chairman Kienle with regards to the current state of affairs in Europe, which is cause for concern. With activities like this year’s PeaceBread Conference in Szarvas, Hungary and the2nd FORUM in Berlin the PeaceBread- project underlines its claim to contribute to “Peace and solidarity in the rural areas”. A widely respected symbol for this is the rye field by the former Death Strip of the Berlin Wall on which rye was planted for the eleventh time.

In a welcoming address, Prof. Axel Klausmeier director of the Berlin Wall Foundation pointed out, that the rye field is an important part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Street and can inspire the numerous visitors to muse about how agriculture and peace were and still are connected in the past history and at present.

The chairman of the Club of Agricultural Diplomats in Germany Arnaud Brizay pointed out hat the PeaceBread- initiave is to be seen as an important civic contribution in the face of the current controversies surrounding the future of Europe.

During the dicussion, moderated by Catarina Zanner, RBB the former Member of the freely elected People’s Chamber of the GDR (DDR-Volkskammer) and of German Parliament (Bundestag), Prof. Dr. Fritz Schumann as well as the historian Dr. Jens Schöne referred to the fact that the farmers at the time of the German partition were able to hold up a dialogue with each other. The regular contacts between leading representatives of the German Farmers Union (DBV) and the Association of Mutual Farmers Aid (VdGB) in the 1980ies proved to be very helpful. Before and after the Turn both sides had a mutual interest in the agricultural production and a common dialogue basis. This is shown by the „Warberger Declaration“ from July 14th 1990 in which the associations from West and East agreed upon a uniform agricultural representation and professed to the free disposition of property for the individual.

Schumann and Schöne recalled how difficult the situation of the GDR- agriculture in the 1980ies had become. The planned economy could not deliver what was needed and therefore an unofficial parallel economy which was more market-orientated prevailed and the agricultural players were forced to apply „Creativity and Shrewdness“.

But this was met with arbitrary interferences from the GDR´s state security(Staatssicherheit), Schöne stressed. The overall difficult situation in the rural areas and the complete loss of confidence in the political institutions lead to an enormous turn-spirit. Both dialogue partners pointed out that the most severe problem for agricultural players in the eastern part of Germany is the progressive accumulation of financial assets. The goal of widely spread assets is in danger; a destruction of the rural society and culture is immanent if this process of accumulation continues.

On the side of the event, Ms Henrike Garbers-Sumpf, KWS Lochow GmbH, reported about an activity of the student and “Rye reporter” Kristof Stolze. Kristof travelled 20 days on a rye trail. Last stop on 15th of June was the rye field on Bernauer Strasse, Berlin. Members of Association PeaceBread and of the Parish of the Chapel of Reconciliation informed Kristof about the project.


Rüdiger Pelikan
Gibfried Schenk

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