Category Archives: Europe

A Piece of Our Journey in Sports & Peacebuilding

The Georgetown University and Generations For Peace Summer Research Fellows have all returned to DC after three months in the field. As we begin to digest our research and experiences, we wanted to share a piece of our journey with you.

What was the most surprising thing you found?

From Amanda Munroe: 

Connection! I was surprised (and encouraged!) to find out how well the organizations and the academics I was interviewing were connected to one another. Whether it is because the field of sport and peacebuilding is relatively small or because the community is so supportive and open to sharing information, a real, effective, and supportive network for information and practice sharing exists – at least within Germany and to the extent that I experienced it, also within the EU.

From Sarah Moran:

Sport and development is a huge field in South Africa – everybody has a friend that is involved in the field of, either directly or indirectly. Whether in casual conversation or in official interviews, I would leave with more people to contact or organizations to “check out” than I ever imagined. In the Western Cape of South Africa alone, I counted over 50 organizations that were directly or indirectly using sport for development ends – and that was not including government initiatives. (This is not necessarily a good indicator – it is, insofar as it is exciting that people have begun to recognize the power of sport as a facilitator of positive social change; it is worrying because I fear that sport and development is a fad that will fatigue or be diluted by overexposure.)

 From Meeghan Zahorsky:

DIVERSITY – The diversity of programs even within the same umbrella organization was unexpected. PeacePlayers International (PPI) in Belfast was distinctly different from PPI in Israel or Cyprus. Generations For Peace pioneers, delegates and trainees from Lebanon and Palestine had a broad diversity of interests, backgrounds and outcomes with the programs they implemented. This was a powerful reminder of the importance of being context-sensitive and showed the ultimate range of sports as a peacebuilding tool.

 The most important thing? 


Consciousness. To think long and hard about your program’s aim, its location, and theory of change. To realize that investment in peace is a long-term process that requires participation on macro, meso, and micro levels. To know that dealing with conflict requires talking about things others may wish to ignore. And that your job as a coach is to encourage that consciousness – by modeling it yourself and asking it of your players. 


The most important lesson I learned is to retain the integrity of “sport” in “sport and peacebuilding” lest it lose its relevance or efficacy. Sport doesn’t have to be the most important thing in a program, but nor can it be the least. Compromising sport – or believing that sport is all you need to run a successful program – is dangerous. A lot of organizations seem to believe that by including “sport” in their titles (or “soccer”, more commonly) they will attract participants, coaches and donors more easily. In actuality, including sport superficially in your program is not a sustainable solution, nor is it goo for the field.


PEOPLE – At every research site I visited, it was individuals who inspired, motivated and determined the success of the sports and peace program. The successful leaders and/or coaches had the right blend of local respect, passion for the game, compassion for the community, energy, and determination. They had some sort of intangible quality that made them the fuel for the program’s mission, and without them, there is no such thing as sports and peacebuilding.

The most inspiring moment?


Hearing stories. It was fun to watch kids enjoy sport and play, but inspiring to hear their stories — about how they grew up within the organization (s), or the personal account of one kid becoming more self-confident, self-aware, and aware of others. It was inspiring to converse with practitioners, to learn what led them to the work that they do and to hear them share humbly of their investment in and knowledge of the local community.


Generally, I was inspired to see how much can be done with so little. I visited an organization that was running soccer camps for girls and boys ages 6-16 in Khayelitsha, one of the most populated and impoverished townships outside of Cape Town. For the entire duration of my visit, the kids used a soccer ball only once – their resources were limited and there were not enough balls to go around. Instead, the coaches came up with teambuilding games and lessons that did not require equipment.


LOVE OF THE GAME – I had the opportunity to watch and join in a PPI leadership development session and basketball practice for a group of Palestinian girls. They were the first generation of female athletes in their communities, and they were exceptional. Their heart, their hustle, their teamwork, was what I had always aspired to as a young athlete. Having the chance to play with them (and believe me, they made me sweat), made me realize how familiar the game was, even thousands of miles from my home gym, even speaking a different language.

What would you recommend for someone interested in sports and peacebuilding?


Focus. If you are interested in using sport as a tool for peace, think about what you want to do and where you want to do it. It’s important to decide how important sport is for you – is your goal to raise interest for a sport, to encourage peace through sport, to increase health through physical fitness or to increase skill in a certain sport? How connected are you within the community where you are practicing, and what is your vision for your program’s role within that community? Keep focus on your goal. A precise understanding of what you are doing will help you decide how to do it, where to do it, with whom you’ll do it and how you’ll fund it.


To think long and hard about what inspires you about sport and how that can be translated effectively into either a development or peacebuilding goal. It’s not automatic, nor is it always appropriate – I saw many examples of sport used badly to promote reconciliation, peacebuilding, and/or development.


INTENTION AND CONTEXT – During Dr. Sarah Hillyer’s course on Sports & Peacebuilding at Georgetown, she repeatedly reminded us of the importance of intentionality in using sport. Sport, after all is not a solution in itself, but a tool. It can be a powerful tool at that, but when we set out to use it, we should have clear intentions and an understanding that it needs to fit organically into the context. Also, connect with others who know the field and know the context. The more we can collaborate in this field, the greater the impact we will have.

As the summer draws to a close, we want to thank everyone who has supported this research, read and commented on our blog, participated in our discussion, challenged us to think differently, and participated in our field research. We want to extend a special thanks to Generations For Peace for their support, Professors Craig Zelizer and Sarah Hillyer for their guidance and encouragement throughout this journey.

For more information on Generations For Peace visit

For Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program visit


Positive Peace, Local & Global: Sport to Prevent Terrorism

A Norwegian Terrorist Surprises Europe

I’m assuming you heard about what happened in Norway last week?

A man named Anders Behring Breivik, under dramatic political and religious conviction, set a car bomb off near a building in downtown Oslo, killing 7 and wounding more, after which he took a ferry directly to a nearby island where, dressed as a police officer, he proceeded to shoot and kill 70 teenagers and young adults. Methodically.

The day it happened, here in Germany, terrorism experts were called in to news studios to report on the potential of an Islamic terrorist attack – but there was nothing conclusive to guess with. On the next morning, Europe discovered that the attacker was a Norwegian man. A right-wing, Christian extremist. “The Norwegian equivalent of Timothy McVeigh”, said the experts.

I tried to imagine the grief of Norwegian families and friends. The daughter of youth workers, I spent many childhood summers at “camp”. These summers are among the best in my memory — when I think of safety, security, or fun, I think of camp. Have you ever been to summer camp? Ever sent your kids? The whole point is that they are away from the rest of the world, right? Distanced from everything that is supposed to be terrible and unfriendly. Well.

Isn’t Europe Boring Compared to Africa or the Middle East?

If I needed a reminder that conflict resolution is needed in Europe as much as it is in the rest of the world, last week sufficed. I have had various responses to my work this summer – a number of people have asked me why in the world I wanted to spend the summer in Europe, while Meeghan and Sarah and Sarah were in Africa, the Middle East, and other “hot” conflict zones. Europe feels less exciting. If not boring, it feels at least comfortable and secure in comparison to these countries. I have a recurring nightmare where I return to campus in the fall and someone accuses me of using ‘research’ as an excuse for a European sightseeing tour.

I generally respond that there is a lot to learn about critical pedagogy and democratic decision making here, and I am lucky enough to speak two languages this research is published in. This has proven very true. But moreover, As Sarah alluded to in an earlier post, “peace” is not only the absence of war, it must also be defined as the presence of something positive; the presence of justice – or to paraphrase J.P. Lederach (who paraphrases the Bible), where “Truth, Justice, Mercy, and Peace” meet. And while it is absolutely clear that we must struggle to obtain peace in locations of prolonged, violent conflict, I am convinced we must also struggle to maintain and deepen peace in countries with high security. Norway is one of the most secure countries in the world, for goodness sakes! We students of peace and conflict resolution envy their Institutes and Masters/PhD programs. But they are not isolated from the rest of the world. In fact I would argue that it is precisely because of increased connectivity caused by globalization (see Fathali Moghaddam’s book, The New Global Insecurity for a more detailed examination of this concept) that research on peace and conflict resolution is as necessary in Europe today as it is in Israel and Palestine. Peace research, like action for peace, must “think globally” and “act locally.”

Battling Terrorism – Building Critical Consciousness through Sport

A second point that the tragedy in Norway convinced me of is the fundamental importance of local programs building global consciousness, self-awareness, and conflict resolution/democratic skills. An example: Three days after the attack, my research led me to visit a mini World Cup  (my second this summer!) near Stuttgart – running parallel to the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup, it was the finale of a month-long tournament featuring kids’ teams from all over Southern Germany.

The tournament was played based on “Street Football” rules. Street Football is an alternative approach to soccer that was first developed in (literally on the streets of) South America, in one of the most violent regions in the world. In Street Football, kids play on smaller-as-regulation fields, with teams of 4-6 players. Each team must have at least one girl, and a girl must score a goal during the game in order for the goals from the boys to be counted. Games last 7 minutes each. Before game begin, the opposing teams agree together on 3 “fair play” rules. (Examples include handshakes before and after the game, not insulting the other team, or high-fives on both sides following each goal). The kids referee the games themselves, according to the 3 rules they dreamed up.

At the end of the game, the teams re-group. “Teamers”, young adults who are trained in the Street Football approach, have watched the game and counted the points. They ask the opposing teams, “How did you feel during the game? Was it fair?” In this, the “3rd Halftime”, the opposing teams discuss fairness and decide together how many fair play points (1-3, depending on the rules they decided on before the game), to award one another. These points are counted together with the total goals scored, after which the winner will be decided.

With Privilege Comes Responsibility

Playing in the KickFair World Cup is a lot of fun. But “3rd Halftimes” can also be unpleasant. Even though they rarely last longer than 5-10 minutes, they require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Emotions are high after the game, and since each individual saw the game from his or her own perspective, it’s easy to disagree. But everyone must agree in order for points to be awarded. Teamers, even though they had an overview from the sidelines, have to do more listening to the participants than talking. Parents, by the way, are not allowed in the dialogue zone of the 3rd Halftime.

I was explaining “Street Football” rules to a good friend recently who replied, “But isn’t that challenging? I mean, I imagine it’s very hard for 10 year olds to come up with their own rules, referee their own games, and decide on the how to award points. That’s a lot of responsibility!”

I thought for a bit. She was right – it is a lot responsibility. But kids respond very well to this approach. They manage the responsibility without violence – in fact, with teamwork — and keep playing. It’s often the grown-ups looking on that make a big deal or become very upset. We’re the ones that are scared!

So I responded to my friend, “But isn’t that the point? Democracy is hard! Democratic societies require critical participation from responsible citizens. Aren’t we underestimating our kids by saying ‘here are the rules – go play by them’?”

Successful democracies are processes. They require people who are conscious about themselves and their relationships with others, who think critically about their positions and search for compromises with those who are different than them. We’re witnessing that right now through the budget crisis in Washington, the establishment of a new government in Egypt, and the discussions over the Euro in the EU.

The greatest threat, I believe, is raising children that see the world in black and white – who accept authority without questioning it, and play by rules because they are ordered to and not because they believe they are the best or most creative way to play. Encouraging responsibility, self-awareness, and democratic processes – my belief is that this quality leads toward security and away from fear, destruction, and terror.

This project is supported b a cooperation between Georgetown University’s Masters Program in Conflict Resolution and Generations for Peace.

To learn more about Street Football World in Germany or near you, check out StreetFootballWorld, KICKFAIR, and Integration Durch Sport

For more info on the recent terrorist attack in Norway, check out the following articles from the New York Times:

Alternative Tourism: Trading International Renown for Local Respect

It has been a challenge for my own parents to follow me this summer, so a quick update on my whereabouts:

I was in Stuttgart, Freiburg and Berlin (May-1st half of June)

Then in Italy (2nd half of June)

Then in Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France (1st half of July)

…and now I have returned to Germany. I am in Cologne today, then back in Freiburg and Stuttgart before heading to Berlin and flying home to the United States.

If you are one of the many persons I have encountered “live” so far on this journey, let me please say: thank you! It has been a pleasure to make so many encouraging acquaintances.

But speaking of challenges, by far the most challenging bit of my work this summer has been finding my way, by plane, train, and automobile my own two feet, to my research interviews and site visits. I am not sure how often you make your way around European metropoles, but I have discovered that finding sport associations in discreet office buildings or off-the-beaten-track gymnasiums is decidedly more difficult than finding directions to, for example, La Tour Eiffel.

The upside of this challenge (besides sharpening my map-reading skills in multiple languages) has been experiencing “alternative tourism”. By taking the chance to interview these organizations on their “turf”, I’ve been led away from the more well-known (and generally well-kept) sections of Berlin, Brussels, and Paris. I’ve learned to see it coming, actually: the train ride usually takes a little bit longer than you’re used to, and the faces change from tourists and business people to service workers and families – the skin tone of the majority of my co-commuters gradually darkens, and when I leave the metro/tram/bus/train and am blinded by summer sun, the streets are crowded, loud, colorful, and busy.

While I was underground watching faces change, 99cent stores replaced organic produces shops. In one of the neighborhoods I visited in Berlin, the storefronts repeated themselves each block, so I had memorized the order by the time I arrived on site: Barber shop, Döner/Kebap Restaurant, Internet Café, 99-cent Shop, Asian Restaurant, Corner Grocery Store – and then again, and again, and again! Every single block!

I guess what I am getting at here is something that Sarah M mentioned a few weeks back in her blog post, “Internationally Known and Locally Respected”. According to her experiences in SA, Sarah said, “What seems to be a crucial ingredient for programmatic success is local ownership and local buy-in”. As our team works on the project, we’ve heard this idea reinforced in site visits, literature, and off-the-record conversations. Social change requires energetic impulses from outside and sustained support from inside – in other words, you need trainers who know this Barber Shop from the next.

Maybe I’m not saying anything new. What I can say, though, is hats off to you! Thanks for inviting me into your space and letting me see the work you do – in cities that are internationally renowned, but where local respect is what matters.

And P.S. – Especially to those of you who who have commented on research methods and hypotheses – thanks for being the “outside impulse” bringing energy to long-term practitioners. Communication and collaboration are key!  Please stay connected to Generations for Peace and the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University for more.

“So What’s Your Hypothesis?”: A Word on Research Methods

About a week and half ago, during one of my site visits in Berlin, a practitioner (with a B.A. in political science) said to me, “Your project sounds fascinating. What’s the hypothesis behind your work?”

I was taken off guard. Surprisingly, no one had asked me that question yet. I felt a little silly, coming from Georgetown and all, notebook in hand, doing site observations and suddenly thinking to myself, “I don’t know. Do I have a hypothesis?” I was whisked back to every science class of my primary schooling – in 2nd grade, in 5th grade, in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grade – in my quad class in Environmental Science as a senior in college for goodness sakes – what is the first step in the scientific method? Formulating a hypothesis! I could imagine every one of my science teachers casting a reproving glance at me over their gold-rimmed glasses (they all had gold-rimmed glasses) saying: “Now Amanda, you were always one of our brightest…really, no hypothesis?”

But I’ve done a little reflecting this week, and I’d like to say it loud and clear:


The reason? Michel Foucault.

Lest you be mistaken, Michel Foucault is not the name of some 5th grade sweetheart that distracted me from elementary instruction in the scientific method, causing me to miss the whole section on constructing hypotheses. In fact, he is someone I’ve never met: a cigarette-rolling, espresso-drinking French philosopher, who, in the wake of the Second World War and on the shoulders of philosophical greats like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, dismantled the European Enlightenment and introduced a new way of thinking called Post-Modernism, which did a little thing called questioning the notion of truth.

And it is thanks to this big jump in philosophical history, rejecting objectivity for subjectivity that a number of changes have been made in the academy, from the way people write to – you got it – the way we research.

This past week, I’ve had the incredible fortune to attend an intensive summer school in “Qualitative Research Methods in Social Justice Education”, a combined effort of the University of Trento and the Paulo Freire Institute at UCLA. Just in time to answer my question about a hypothesis, I spent the week with social justice educators from Italy, England, Denmark, Spain, Mexico and the USA talking about research methodology in social justice. It’s helped me to theoretically support the research we’re undertaking this summer, and I’d like to share a bit with you. Before I begin, let me make clear that this basis is my (Amanda’s) research approach. I do not speak for Sarah, Sarah, or Meeghan, at least in this entry:

On Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research: While quantitative research relies on numbers and statistical measures, qualitative research relies more on narrative, interviews or focus groups or field observation and records. It can lend itself more readily to research in the social sciences, because it helps investigate processes rather than necessarily proving or disproving outcomes. It’s an especially helpful tool for researching and evaluating ideas like “justice” and “peace”, which are difficult to numerically quantify.

A Post-Modern Approach to Qualitative Research: A “constructivist” research philosophy (also called post-structuralist or post-modern) is one that understands people, cultures, and the world not as fixed subjects within a determined reality but rather as co-creators of reality that is flexible and changing. Like Foucault, it doesn’t trust the notion of objectivity, arguing that all aspects of life are socially and philosophically situated. Every action and interaction we have is a negation of power, gender, and politics. Easier said, every person sees the world through a certain lens or pair of glasses.

The participants in our course were acknowledging the “glasses” we wear. As researchers in social justice education, we see the world with a certain bias – there is an injustice we sense (as those posing the question) that our research in some way hopes to reveal, or a solution to an injustice that our research hopes to empirically prove or publicize.

Instead of straining for objectivity, considered a false pretense, as everyone is politically situated (even when they try not to be!) qualitative researchers with a constructivist theoretical grounding are openly transparent about their political positions and personal interests in their approach to research.

And about that “Hypothesis”?: Out of a number of relevant methods I now understand thanks to this course, I have chosen a methodology called “Grounded Theory”, which is the most frequently used qualitative method in social science research.

Grounded Theory is a theory, grounded. That is to say, it’s the inverse of a hypothesis – instead of setting out with an idea I am trying to prove or disprove, the researcher sets out to construct a brand new theory. Grounded in interaction with research participants (as opposed to “subjects”), interviewees are treated not as objects of observation, but sources of knowledge informing the creation of a new idea.

So concretely, what does this philosophical talk have to do with Sport & Peace?

As a researcher, I am attempting to create something new by recording what is already going on and looking for the links that they have with one another. This happens practically through a mix of site observations and interviews with academics, program designers, and program practitioners.

By asking questions in conversational interviews, observing pedagogical practices, reflecting on my conclusions, discussing with others and being conversant in already-existent literature, I’m analyzing my data through multiple readings and under multiple lenses.  Building on our team’s endeavor to “map” organizations in the world doing sport and peacebuilding work, I am focusing on program design. I do this by being transparent about my intentions, pulling together actors, visiting them where they are, “coding” and “categorizing” ideas and synthesizing them to theorize common aspects of pedagogy and design.

Reflexivity and Autoethnography: While quantitative research tries to leave the researcher out of the process as much as possible, qualitative research seeks to acknowledge the researcher’s role. Moreover, it asks the researcher to reflect on the research process frequently, and in communication with the research participants, since what is being constructed might – in fact should – change during the process in light of new ideas.

Our team is doing this through autoethnography, which is a research method that asks the researcher to record her or his own reflections on the research process, recognizing their objective and subjective biases, and also asking “what is this research doing to/in/with me?”  At the end of this summer, we hope to have something to share with the world – a useful tool that explains our methods, challenges, findings, and hopes.

On You: Finally, we practice reflexivity through discussion – and this is where you the reader come into play. Because you’re not just a reader – you’re a participant in the discussion! Our team “checks in” once a week, and once every few weeks we Skype-chat about what is emerging from our challenges, our findings, our interviews. But we also blog! About those very same things! And sometimes, we even get to talk on the radio
about them. So please, share your ideas with us, join in the discussion, and help us to create a grounded theory: new ideas about sport and peace.

The When of Sport and Peace

Sport is used at many levels – individual, communal, and internationally. It is used in places all around the world from soccer fields in South Africa to basketball courts in Jerusalem. Where and who a program works with are usually fairly evident. What is less often discussed is the “when” of sports programs. What temporal space do these programs fill? Where along a transition from conflict to peace are the being used? When are they most effective?

For must of our research this summer, we are dealing with “post-conflict” settings. I, like most in the field, tend to avoid the term post-conflict knowing how insufficient it is in describing reality. However, I use it here to suggest that these areas are in a state past full-out combat or are in a period following the peak in violence. 

That being said, “peace” is also a misnomer. The “peace” walls in Belfast are the most stark example I have seen of Galtung’s “negative peace.” To “keep the peace”, these physical divisions are topped with spikes and barbed wire, they are decorated with sectarian murals, messages of peace, and graffiti. They are besieged by litter. The walls create a backdrop to small suburbs around the city, they cut through school yards and stand ominously between the narratives of both sides. They bar cross-community violence and reconciliation at the same time. 

Sports are currently being used in this “when”, a timeframe of negative peace, to change the nature of community relations. To move through and beyond the walls, both literally and figuratively, to bring young people together and then send ripples of change through the community, from the children to their coaches and teachers, to their parents and families, to their friends and their families. All the while, this “when” remains very important as it is a lull of violence and illusion of peace that enables programs to bring groups together but it is the proximity to renewed violence that calls for peacebuilding. When I visited PeacePlayers International in Belfast, they showed sites where they had crossed the street between two schools or through a Peace Wall to hold “twinnings” – joint basketball practices with Catholic and Protestant youth. These short distances represented huge leaps for the community. To an outsider, it almost seemed to easier, but I soon realized that in order to have an hour long basketball practice they had to overcome invisible barriers, held up by longstanding narratives of the “other”, to work towards reconciliation and friendship. 

As I continue to explore sports and peacebuilding in various contexts, I will keep in mind that it is not just the “where” and “who” that we need to consider, but also, to explore the “when”. 

– Meeghan (notes from Belfast, N. Ireland)

Multiculturalism in Europe – Integration through Sport

This week in Germany, I am visiting sites and interviewing practitioners with the Germany-wise program, “Integration through Sport” (in German, “Integration durch Sport”). IdS, which is financed by the German government, administered via the German Olympic committee and implemented locally through youth programs and sport clubs, is a wonderful example of the intersection between sport and conflict resolution.

Today I was privileged to visit the state headquarters of IdS in the German province of Baden-Württemberg, which is conveniently located next to the bus stop “Mercedes World”.
Mercedes World

If you could re-create Disney World for adrenaline-loving, sport-watching, autobahn-driving car nuts, this would be it. IdS is located on the 4th floor of a giant building that houses (as far as I can tell) everything that has to do with sport in Baden-Württemberg.
Stt Sport

It is conveniently nestled behind the Mercedes-Benz Arena /sport center,
MB Arena
practice fields for BW’s famous soccer team (the “VFB”),
MB Museum
kitty-corner from the Mercedes-Benz Museum (highly recommended – I test drove a voice-automated “E Klasse” sedan there once) and a stone’s thow away from the Porsche Museum, and, lest they be undone by Mercedes,
the Porsche Arena. Wow! That’s quite a world!

The point of this entry is integration, however, not why sports lovers are at home in Germany. (Though that has something to do with it!). Kids in the Federal Republic of Germany practice sport in three way, generally:

1) In school – Meaning PE – gym class. German schools do not have the same kind of school-team sport culture we do in the USA
2) In clubs – This is the location for team and competitive sports. These are local and one usually pays a fee to join, (though this can be publicly covered). Called “Sport Vereins”, these clubs act as a cultural marker in a unique way.
3) In outreach work – Play-centered sport, sport as a way to relax and pass time, instead of training or working for a team. After school drop-in centers or church groups often offer sport opportunities.

My research in Germany connects with all of these areas, and it is interesting to consider how each individual defines the word “integration” in their context. Indeed, this is not only a program-specific question, it’s a question that Europe in general asks itself, as its population grows older and shrinks, and as it is faced with lots of immigrants.

As my psychology professor Dr. Moghaddam would phrase it, Europe is determining how to “manage cultural diversity”.

This past October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism in Germany had “utterly failed”, that the attempt to coexist was clearly not working for them. While the statement was considered purposefully polemical by a number of critics, it struck a chord. Many Germans – many Europeans, fell that despite the rapidly increasing ethnic and cultural diversity of their nations, these culturally different groups continue to live separate lives, even though they are in the same place. And this can lead to a lot of political and social problems. Sometimes, even hate crimes.

A friend of mine here, a German married to a Yugoslavian, recently showed me a comedic video where a German citizen (dark skinned, accent – obvious immigrant) was given an “integration test”. Among other questions, he was asked,

“How would you say you can tell you are integrated?”

“How?” the man answered, “That’s easy. I used to only drink vodka. Now I drink beer!”

…Which is a funny way of answering a perplexing question that people all over the world right now are trying to answer: “What IS “integration”, really? It’s not complete assimilation (drink only beer, never drink vodka again) but it’s also not isolation (drink vodka only, refuse to touch beer even though you live in a land flowing with it)…there must be some middle where you can speak the cultural language of your hosts (maybe drink vodka at home and beer in public?), but it’s got to go a step further, too, when the host culture starts changing itself, taking on the cultural traits of its immigrants, or even coming up with some mixture of both (selling both beer and vodka? Germany has already achieved this status).

This phenomenon shows up easily in the culture of food, but it is more difficult to negotiate in things like politics, education, or cultural mores. In sport, culture, education, and politics are all present at once, which can make it a good place to start the work.

So let me ask you, then:

What is integration?

Where is it successful?

Multiculturalism in Europe, has it failed?

War and Peace (Prologue to Amanda’s Summer Research)

One of my favorite „Sport and Peace“ stories is that of the football (soccer) match between German and British troops on Christmas Day in 1914, the first winter of what later would be christened the “Great War”. I’ve never read a detailed account of the match, but you have to wonder, don’t you, what was it like to be there? Who approached whom? Was there a referee? Was it scary, to risk playing with someone you know wants to kill you? What about playing with someone you have been trained to hate? And what did it feel like, going back to the trenches?

As an American citizen of the 21st century, let me heartily thank those women and men who worked toward an armistice that resorted peace and cooperation after the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Thanks to their dedication, our countries now enjoy a rich and beneficial cooperation, and I get to learn from some of the most incredible thinkers in this field through my research in peace education this summer. (This is not to mention Schwarzwalderkirschtorte, tiramisu, and crepes with Nutella, all of which I plan to enjoy in the next few weeks, thanks to something called peace).

But there’s more to this story: Remembering the “football truce” on Christmas day was brought on because of a news briefing a friend of mine sent me the night before I left DC for this summer project: Days after bin Laden’s capture by the US, British troops and Pakistani federal police officers were playing soccer together in Helmand Province, Pakistan, when something suddenly went wrong and one of the Pakistani officers opened fire on the British soldiers, killing one and wounding three others.

And you have to wonder, don’t you, what was it like to be there?

How did it feel as a simple game became a survival match?

When the rules stopped applying?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve started to study sport and peace, it’s that intentionality counts. A lot. Sport itself is not a way to guarantee peace. It’s an experience, it can almost feel like magic sometimes, and if you’ve read any Tolkien, Lewis, or Rowling, you know that magic can be used powerfully for good and for evil.

There are a lot of people in the world who think sport is a unique and powerful tool for achieving peace. (Sarah, Sarah, Meeghan and I are 4 of them). Our team’s work this summer wants to connect these folks and ask: “How?” “Why?” and “What’s it like to be there?”

As for me, spending the summer here in “Old Europe”, I hope to learn something from a people who in the space of 60 years have moved from a life at the epicenter of fear, bloodshed, and animosity to an established and competitive economic, social, and political union.

And if you don’t think there’s something to learn from that, well…

So what does it take to start a football match with your greatest enemy on Christmas Day? What about if your enemy doesn’t celebrate Christmas?