The interreligious project ‘Knüpfwerk’ brings together youth from different religious and cultural backgrounds in a summer camp where they build shared knowledge and overcome barriers of identity through art, music, and performance. It took place once again in 2022, from 19 to 29 August, as a cooperation between Faiths In Tune (Germany), The Upper Room (Austria), and the Magnificat Institute Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine).
The participants were 50 young people aged 13-23 from Germany, Austria, Israel, and Palestine; some of the participants also had roots in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Ukraine, reflecting a diversity of biographies including refugee and migration experiences. The circle of participants was also religiously diverse with members of the Alevi, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faiths as well as atheists and agnostics present. While at the camp, the participants wrote, rehearsed, and performed plays on this year’s theme, ‘Hope Beyond Borders’.
The term ‘Knüpfwerk’ means entwining and embroidery, referring to fabrics woven with different and multicoloured threads, representing different cultures and identities. This is the aim of the ‘Knüpfwerk’ project, now in its second year: to connect young people from different countries, cultural and religious backgrounds through music and theatre to promote intercultural and interreligious understanding and a society that celebrates diversity. As the participants spent time together, created and connected with each other, they grew by learning from and with each other, overcame prejudices, and built lasting friendships. At the same time, educators, youth workers and volunteers learned new, successful methods of interfaith work with young people. The preparation of the final performance took place at the CVJM Camp in the picturesque setting of the lakeside town of Storkow, just outside Berlin. For a week, the young people transformed the venue into an artistic workshop and hotbed of creativity.
The time the youth spent together was marked by optional daily prayers and liturgical celebrations on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which were freely attended by adherents of all the different religious confessions and worldviews present. By living together at the camp, sharing everything from eating habits to prayer times, the young people had the opportunity to learn about each other’s traditions and lifestyles. Activities included theatre rehearsals, fun games to strengthen their team spirit, workshops on socially relevant topics, excursions, and shared celebrations with dancing and singing around the campfire. The workshops were led by musicians of different religions from the Faiths In Tune artist community who provided insights into their artistic work and spirituality. The guests workshop leaders included a Jewish singer and composer who helped the youths in creating compositions, a Hindu artist, a Polynesian dancer, as well as two musicians, one Israeli and one Syrian, co-founders of the intercultural ‘Ajam Quartet’, who left their countries and came to Berlin with the purpose of overcoming barriers and divisions.
The participants also had the opportunity to take part in an ecumenical Sunday service at the camp site, as well as in musical prayers of the Alevi, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Yoga traditions in the mornings and evenings. A special highlight was also the visit to a synagogue in Berlin, where there was first an introduction followed by a Q&A session, after which everyone could take part in the Shabbat service. After a week at the campsite in Storkow, the camp moved to Berlin, where the youth soon turned the underground stations, squares, and streets into small stages to rehearse and fine-tune their performances. Finally, on Sunday 28 August, the youth officially opened the Faiths In Tune ‘Berlin Festival of Religions’ with the debut of their original musical play entitled ‘Esperanza: Hope Beyond Borders’ at the ufaFabrik cultural and drama centre of Berlin, while a video livestream allowed their friends and relatives abroad to watch the performance online. Through Knüpfwerk, the youth, supervisors, and educators have made lasting friendships across national, religious, and cultural borders and deepened their understanding of each other’s cultures and lifestyles by learning from and with each other. In this way, the group experienced unity in diversity and the participants became, as the young people themselves said, ‘a family for a week’. Through their shared experiences and the sense of achievement derived from having written and staged their own original play, the youth not only developed their skills of artistic expression and their personalities, but also increased their self-esteem and motivation for further engagement. The experience of the camp was also an enrichment for all the supervising and accompanying team members, who learned a lot in terms of both methodology and about different religions and cultures, skills, and knowledge that they can continue to apply in their daily work and future projects.
Quotes from participants:
‘Knüpfwerk is a meeting of young people from different religions, and I have no words for it. I am simply impressed and so blown away by what we have achieved, what we have put on stage. And that this is possible in one week, that we wrote song lyrics in one week, that we made choreographies in one week. That also gives me the feeling that if the community is healthy, if everyone can work together, then it’s even possible in one day. Knüpfwerk should exist every day.’ – L., participant from Austria
‘You start to grow together, like a very big, intertwined tree with roots connected in the earth.’ – M., participant from Austria
‘I feel love through the other religions. You feel that you are not so separate. You are one family.’ M., participant from Austria
‘Knüpfwerk for me is a place where I feel like I’m home and with family. The place where I am happy and where I feel free to be who I am.’ L., participant from Israel/Palestine
© Anton Tal – www.AntonTal.com @ntontalphoto
˝The programme makes possible something that is all too rare in our society these days: speaking and having discussions across borders, not about each other, but with each other. That can be a hard slog at times, but at the same time the format makes space for follow-up questions and deeper conversations that are only possible through trust on all sides.
Felix, DialoguePerspectives alumnus