Significant change story – online lectures on integration, migration and anti-war heritage

Within the BRIDGES project, Centre for Peace Studies in Croatia, has organized and online lecture that was opened for all interested citizens living in Croatia; within the program “Peace Studies”. Online lecture was organized during the COVID-19 pandemics (spring 2021) and it gave us the possibility to discuss the issues of integration, migration and local communities remotely. Participants were coming from different parts of Croatia and they could really present the realities of local communities the ybelong to – Osijek, Rijeka, Pula, Zagreb, Korčula, Opatija etc. Once the pandemic measures made it possible for the participants to meet in person, we have organized in person debates in the city of Zagreb (July 2021).

Based on a written evaluation and personal conversations, participants stated that the online lecture provided them with the knowledge and tools for analyzing and deconstructing current imposed negative discourse on migrants and migrations. Participants were also able to integrate and upgrade their knowledge on migrations with other topics.

Also, the methods used during the course helped to create a safe space where migrants as guest lecturers could freely share their story with the participants. Hearing their experiences first hand encouraged a deeper sense of solidarity and emphasized the sense of importance for common (virtual) spaces such as this course. It also empowered some participants to show their interest for volunteering at the Center for Peace Studies Zagreb and share ideas for creating new activities such as online language course and community translation services.

Some of the guests shared that they intent to sign up for the next generation of Peace studies which can have a significant impact on our work providing a more diverse group of participants and further strengthening the approach in which we not only learn from the facilitators, but also encourage the mutual exchange of knowledge and experience among the participants. We will encourage this even more by applying various creative and interactive methods such as guest appearances, work in small groups, guided discussions, analysis of songs and other works of art by migrant authors etc.

Activities such as this course are significant for the community because a combination of theoretical approach and personal contact can make a big positive change in the narrative around migrants. Providing a space for migrants to self-advocate and share their story can also create an opportunity to strengthen and connect with the migrant resistance initiatives and organizations.