From 15th to 23rd of July Armenian Progressive Youth NGO together in cooperation with Active Ukrainians in Europe from Sweden hosted an international training course on the topic of combating hate speech among young people in Europe.
32 youth workers and youth leaders from 11 different countries such as Sweden, Romania, France, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and Armenia gathered in Yerevan to participate in the training and to learn more about Armenia and the reality in it. With the background of migration crisis in Europe and extremism spreading in the world- the objectives of the training were to explore the notion of hate speech and its main roots. Furthermore, it aimed at inspiring youth workers to find innovative solutions to fight hate speech in their societies.
Sharing the growing sense of concern towards the rise of hate speech in Europe, the two organizations also came up with an initiative of organizing a panel discussion to bring together policy-makers, experts, civil society activists, youth workers and youth leaders from Armenia and Europe to get engaged in interactive dialogue, debate and discuss the possible solutions for tackling hate speech and its repercussions on young people. A Panel Discussion entitled as Freedom of Speech VS Hate Speech.
In the end of the project participants have also planned and organized a flashmob to reach out to public with a number of different activities they have prepared about raising public awareness on hate speech targeting different vulnerable groups to join the European Action Day for victims of hate crime.
Some of the participants agreed to share with us their personal experiences within the training course and to reflect on the content and learning achievements they have had.
One of the participants, Radu Dalidis, a 23 year-old NGO worker from Denmark, says that the training course has helped him to understand the roots of hate speech and how to tackle it in daily life. Also, he adds, that he now acknowledges how to avoid stereotypes and prejudices when meeting new people and when facing different situations. Radu points out that in Denmark, there is a need of greater tolerance for the Roma people. To conduct education on the hate speech topic to youngsters and youth workers would be preferable, since they are more likely to be receptive. There are various methods to do this, such as social media campaigns, flyers distribution or social events implemented in relevant locations.
In general, Radu emphasises that he was very satisfied with the overall quality of the training course as well as with the accommodation and food. According to him, the trainers were very professional and did their best to ensure the highest quality of the training course
Arpen Sargsyan, a 24 year-old youth worker from Sweden, says that for her the training has been about digging deeper into why and when we experience feeling of hate, in order to understand how to prevent it. Radu continued that before the training he was unaware of the consequences of hate speech and how it affects our nowadays society. However, now after the training he feels that he has the knowledge on combating hate speech and dealing with it. “Furthermore, the training course enabled meetings with amazing people from different countries, with different cultural background. This improved my interpersonal skills and expanded my network”, he adds.
Arpen recognizes that specifically right now in Sweden there is a need to build a greater tolerance towards refugees. And that tolerance can be build
only with interactions with tolerance. On how to combat these issues she responds ”I think everyone in my society would benefit from this kind of education. Children are certainly a group to address with such an education. They are the future so we do have to think a lot in educating them in order to prevent future hate speech acts. But I do believe that everyone in my society do need to develop a greater understanding.”
Robertas Sunokas, 34 years old from Lithuania, also highlights that it was very interesting to have participants from different countries involved in discussions and sharing their own cultural beliefs.