War and Peace at an Austrian castle
With ongoing conflict in Gaza, the Ukraine, Syria and countless other hot spots around the world, one can be excused for thinking that peace is a concept for dreamers and academics.
Well in a way it is, and every year those dreamers and academics get together in an Austrian castle to burnish their shields and sharpen their swords in the fight for peace.
Burg Schlaining is a remarkably well preserved castle a couple of hours’ drive south of Vienna.
It’s at least eight centuries old and has seen more than its share of bloodshed and battle.
But today it’s known as “the peace castle”, where people from all over the world come to learn about peace and prevention of bloodshed.
And young people who’ve come here for the summer academy are keen to talk about war, peace and what can be done about it.
“My name is Maximilian Lakitsch, I come from Linz in Upper Austria. My name is Philippa Fennes and I am from Germany and I am studying in TÃ¼bingen right now. My name is Guillaume de-Perlinghi and I am originally from Belgium. My name is Abdi, I come from Somalia.”
These students of conflict resolution are debating “violence for peace” – can intervention with force be justified in order to end a conflict?
Maximilian, Philippa and Guillaume explains why this is a hot issue.
MAX: Because in a lot of cases people are calling for this intervention and the same people then are doubting that this was the right means to do it. Look at Rwanda. Murder and the situation was really really bad and the international community didn’t do anything and a lot of criticism was raised.//PHILIPPA: Often times interventions are framed as something easy, or they’re a good choice to quickly solve a conflict but that obviously isn’t the case as we have seen with Iraq – for example – and it’s really interesting that the same kind of arguments have been brought up in the case of Syria. People appear to make the same arguments even though history has shown that it’s not that easy and that a quick intervention in Iraq can turn into.. the conflict it has turned into.// GUILLAUME: When the opposition uses measures such as in Iraq and Syria and Libya, it is very hard when you are trying to find peaceâ¦ and keep your hands clean, as one would say.
In another domed hall, in another wing of this fortress designed for fighting, voices are being raised in praise of peace.
The peace castle has its own peace choir.
The song is from Azerbaijan.
The lyrics urge all mothers, fathers, daughters and sons to call for peace with all their hearts.
Meanwhile, the students of conflict resolution have begun discussing the future.
Given the numerous conflicts beyond the walls of their castle, do they feel hope or hopelessness?
“PHILIPPA: I think the problem these days is that for the future I think something needs to change with the focus much more on prevention in order to, yeah prevent, new conflicts from turning hot. //GUILLIAUME: I think that what Philippa just mentioned is exactly correct. I believe that all of us who are here in Burg Schlaining are here, in some way we have to be hopeful, we have to believe that by working on these topics, by discussing it, that it does, slowly, surely maybe, starting locally, by what we can do personally, in our own lives, then lead to, a change in the way people think, here and there.//ABDI: Military intervention isn’t a solution so maybe there is other means you know, to bring, for the country, for all the people, peace you know. No one can live without peace.”
The peace choir is working on its pitch for a concert later in the evening.
But in other parts of the castle there’s intense debate about whether violence deployed in the name of ending war, can ever bring peace.