by: Ayaz Asadov (Azerbaijan)
Recently, I was granted the opportunity to participate in a training program organized by the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO) in cooperation with Made in Europe (a non-governmental organization based in the UK) and the European Youth Foundation. It was held in Berlin and lasted for 5 days (Dec. 16th – 21st). The central aim of the program was to train young Muslims from all over Europe (14 countries in all) and to provide them with required knowledge and tools so that they are capable to make positive changes in their own local communities in terms of promoting environmentalism and fair trade. While during the first days of the seminar, the main focus was on the theoretical dimension of the issues, towards the end many practical aspects were dealt with (such as how to run a campaign or what kind of realistic measures can be taken in various local contexts).
Regarding the theoretical part, two experts with different backgrounds shared their experiences with the trainees. One of them was Fazlun Khalid, who is well known because of his long-time engagement in environmental issues, and the other was an expert, Dr. Mark Lawrence from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, in whose presentation we learned about the discipline of climate engineering. In addition to these two lecturers, two case studies looked at examples of German organizations, namely Hima and Nour Energie, which were used to present a testimony of how religion (Islam in these examples) can be a motivator for people to achieve positive changes in their local communities. I was so surprised when I heard that there are two mosques in Germany using solar panels and many churches and synagogues that use environmentally friendly energy and fair trade products. We also heard about the success story of Atif Choudhury, who helped Palestinian olive growers get their products to the UK market.
The second part of the training program largely consisted of group work and simulation games. During the group work I had many chances to talk to the other participants and to learn from their experiences. And I have to mention that this part didn’t lag behind the theoretical sessions in terms of learning. (The power of intercultural learning!) The training program ended with group presentations about campaigns prepared by trainees and we received critiques from professionals (which, in my opinion is very crucial). In addition to the seminars, we had a field trip to the office of the GRÜNE JUGEND, the youth branch of German Green Party.
This was my first serious experience in the field of environmental issues and fair trade. In general, it was a very informative and beneficial one. I found it very relevant to our Public Policy program at the Brandt School, and I think that as future policy-makers and civil activists, we have to obtain a particular level of knowledge about issues such as trade justice and environmental protection before starting any decision making process. And of course I believe that taking care of the environment and trading justly must be one of main duties of those who strive for responsible citizenship.