The power of images and the Waldorf Peace Network

By Tia ten Venne, June 2022

War in Europe. This was unimaginable for most of us until Russia's attack on Ukraine. Just as the war of aggression in Europe has shaken us adults, it has also made the pupils, children and young people pause in their everyday lives.

Tiflis

Schloss Hamborn

Odilienschule Mannheim

Mannheim Peace March

Immediately after the first attack became known, the students in my class 6 came to school with many questions, concerns and, above all, a great need to talk. Not only had many followed the news in the media, but they had also experienced the immediate emotional reaction of the adults. Their experience made me realise very emphatically the responsibility we have not only towards these children, but also towards their future. 

I became a Waldorf teacher because our system of education allows us to accompany children over a long period of time in a learning, living and working community. For me, this means shaping our relationships, our social interaction and the opportunities it offers for each individual in such a way that everyone feels seen, respected and recognised in their values. For me, relationship work is the basis of all peace education. The pupils were much quicker than me in formulating not only their own dismay, but above all their desire to actively do something for peace. It was clear to me that our peace work could not be done in a small and quiet way, but belonged "out into the world" fittingly for class 6 pupils and appropriate for the current situation. This is how the idea came about to connect all Waldorf institutions in our common wish. From the planning of the Waldorf Festival in 2019, we had enough good contacts to at least give it a try. On 11 March at 11.30, a total of more than 70 Waldorf institutions responded to our call and were thus hopefully able to give even more power to their thoughts of peace in community. We were so touched by the wonderful photos and reports of the various actions. For example, demonstrations were held in Frankfurt and Benefeld, and Oberursel organised a musical flash mob in the middle of the town. In Witten, Hamborn, Augsburg, Hamm and many other places there were big peace signs composed of people, and the Remscheiders even set up a peace dove. There was craft work, singing, painting, protesting and praying. The power of the images alone is impressive and that is how my pupils also felt: supported in a community for peace in the world. The video of a Waldorf school from Georgia singing the Ukrainian national anthem, among other things, touched us all in a special way. But it also showed us that we had limited our thinking too much. Peace is not a question of national borders, language or culture but a question of attitude and spirit. Thus began the second campaign of the Waldorf Peace Network. By the end of April, we wanted to make 10,000 paper cranes around the world as a sign of peace, allowing our common wishes to soar. Again, we were completely overwhelmed by the response and were delighted to have schools from Sweden, Spain, Croatia, England, America and the Netherlands participating. In any case, we will only stop the work of the Peace Network when it is no longer needed in this form and are grateful for the manifold support of our Waldorf community. Perhaps we will succeed in making the responsibility of Waldorf education for an education for peace visible again also through the Waldorf Peace Network. 

Author: Tia ten Venne, born 1978, worked for many years as social education worker and theatre maker, then studied at the Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar in Jena and now works as a class teacher and drama teacher at the Schloss Hamborn Rudolf Steiner School. She has four children between the ages of one and 18. After the summer holidays, she and her family can be found in Hesse.

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