Zagreb 17th-23rd March 2014
A once in a lifetime conference was held in Zagreb, Croatia entitled “Youth Breaking Boundaries: from Dignity towards a better Society” organized by World Youth Alliance’s Croatian Chapter in collaboration with WYA Europe and another Croatian NGO. The project was mostly funded by the European Union and the EU Youth Mobility Programme. The Week long event was packed with conferences, workshops and cultural events which together, sought to demonstrate the areas of work at the World Youth Alliance: Education, Advocacy and Culture.
Events were held at different landmark locations in the city centre of Zagreb such as the European House of Zagreb, the Gallery of the University and National Library and the Zagreb University Hall.
The Dignity extravaganza opened with the Dignity Kaleidoscope Photo Exhibition where 20 out of hundreds of submitted photographs were displayed. The photographs showed compelling images of children living in poverty in Serbia, a hard working university student with Down’s Syndrome, a homeless man appreciating the chance to eat a sandwich in London were some of the examples of the type of works which could be seen. In a speech by the Regional Director of World Youth Alliance, Daniel Wisniewski noted albeit some people may be saddened by these images and express a sense of pity for the subjects photographed, we must remember that the worst thing we can do to poor and the marginalized is to underestimate their greatness.
The Eurozone economic crisis which began to emerge in 2008 set off a wave of migration across the EU from southern European Countries into the north. Young people in Southern European countries have largely got the feeling that their home country has no opportunities to offer them and that if they want to grow and develop their skills they have to go elsewhere. World Youth Alliance Croatia invited us to challenge this way thinking and scheduled a session on tackling youth unemployment in Europe at the Zagreb School of Business and Economics where young people learned about the EURES-European Job Mobility Portal and the opportunities it offered young Europeans.
The Europe House of Zagreb was the site of bespoke workshops where Croatia National Committee members gave an informal training on how to develop a national chapter and how to apply for funding for projects. Former President Hrvoje prepared young leaders of UK, France and Macedonia for the journey ahead of them telling them they must not be surprised if there are times when they feel lonely as leaders or that people who were initially very enthusiastic about the project drop out. He offered his help and support to all those who wish to seek advice from; him and collaborate with WYA Croatia in the future.
The World Youth Alliance seeks to educate young people on the understanding and the lived experience of the intrinsic dignity of the person. At the same time, it is important for the youth to understand how ideologies can shape our way of thinking about the person by making simplistic arguments which by “virtue” of their brevity, seem logical and true; whereas in fact they are reductionist and do not express the intrinsic dignity and whole truth about the person which is so much more profound. To this topic were rendered four panel speakers from different professional and disciplinary backgrounds; discussing the ideologies that have flourished in contemporary democracies. Prominent attention were given to Emotivism and Materialism. Emotivism holds that there is no objective value attached to moral utterances but that they merely describe the emotional state of the speaker who speaks them. In an emotivist world, discussions about morality are interminably long because the various speakers cannot agree on common parameters that are external to both in order to judge what type of action will be most conducive to the common good (does that ring a bell?). Todays materialism has marked the manager who seeks to manipulate his or her relationships in order to get the greatest productivity of their employees; as a character of the 20th and 21st century. Dr. Križo Katinić emphasized that we although it is good to praise people who are diligent it should not be the measuring stick by which we measure someone’s worth. He noted that in his clinical experience as a psychiatrist, he has seen the damage that materialism can do when people cannot bring themselves to be as productive as they perceive successful managers to be. Another panel discussion address the current affairs in Church-State Relations in Europe and issues different religious groups face with regard to the exercise of their right to conscientious objection.
As the final open event, Grič Cinema hosted a film screening of the winning films at the Manhattan International Film Festival feature award winning film by Maja Šubarić about the life of an waiter enjoy his work at Violina Café who has Down’s Syndrome. The participants at the conference had the opportunity to meet and build fellowship amongst each other thanks to a hike in the mountains of Zagreb, over meals, and a night out dancing and singing to their hearts content!