Young people must be allowed to actively demonstrate for peace. – Ebersberg

Stephanie Scharfenberg teaches art and religion at the Realschule Ebersberg. She and Diana Kühnlein, a religion teacher at the Ebersberg elementary school, are currently calling for a second protest event against the war in Ukraine. Kindergarten and school children in particular, as well as youth organizations, are expected to attend the Peace March in Grafing on Friday, April 29, starting at 6 p.m. With and without relatives. But of course all citizens are welcome.

Stephanie Scharfenberg, one of the two organizers of the peace march in Grafing on April 29th.

(Photo: Christian Endt)

SZ: Ms. Scharfenberg, how many demos have you organized so far?

Stephanie Scharfenberg: (laughs) Not that many. But a Catholic Day in Berlin – so I know my way around major events.

Their first event of this kind was the March 11th fairy lights in Ebersberg. How did that happen?

Immediately after the start of the war, I felt the children’s fear and horror. In class they asked: “Ms. Scharfenberg, is war now coming to us too?” Then Diana Kühnlein called me and asked: Shouldn’t we put a chain of lights between your school and mine?

It then became a bit more than a human chain between elementary and secondary school in Ebersberg. People crowded the market square, the pedestrian zone, the Bahnhofstrasse and in front of the S-Bahn station.

In fact, we were literally overwhelmed. We assumed there were 300 potential participants, some say there were more than 3500 people. This showed us that the children and young people were practically just waiting to express themselves and do something.

Next Friday there will be a peace march through Grafing. Why there?

The children already said at the first event: when are we going to start now? You want to move. In Grafing you don’t have to block a state road for this. In addition, the cooperation between the two cities becomes clear.

Why are such public protest events important for children and young people?

They have a great need to get something off the ground, but otherwise hardly any other options – apart from being there and being loud. Added to this is the impressive feeling of taking to the streets as a community to raise your voice together. We already saw that at Fridays for Future.

There were initially reservations among some institutions. Now, on the other hand, you have posters drawn in class and the children come to the demo by class.

Schools are supposed to be politically neutral – that’s why Ms. Kühnlein and I, as private individuals, are willing to give our heads for these actions. We have received a lot of positive feedback from school management and colleagues. After all, we teachers have the task of reacting pedagogically to current situations. We also want to support the children in overcoming crises and developing resilience. One must not forget: First there was the concern for our environment, then for our health, the tense corona situation, which is far from over. Now comes the war. Students desperately need a sense of self-empowerment. That they are not impotent. Otherwise they run the risk of not being able to cope with the situation if a personal break occurs later in life. That’s why you can’t keep them away from everything, you have to include them.

What do you experience in the school hours?

The children feel that this is not a computer game, but that the situation in the war zones is serious. They see Ukrainian families moving into their neighbor’s house and welcome classes being set up.

There are also Ukrainian and Russian students who have been here for a long time.

As a matter of fact. That’s why we have to emphasize that it’s not about condemning people who come from Russia. We don’t want to forget that you may know someone who also fears for their life for taking a stand against the war. All in all, one can say that the children are very caring towards each other – nobody gets dissed because the family comes from Russia. And if a child doesn’t want to design a poster for the demo, that’s no problem for us. Nobody is forced. Especially since: A dove of peace always works, everyone agrees. Ebersberg’s Mayor Ulrich Proske said at one of the meetings: It’s very important to me that all the children, German, Ukrainian and Russian, can still play football together afterwards.

What do you say to parents when asked whether they should take their children to such an event?

Everyone has to decide for themselves. But I find it dangerous to raise children as if they live in a cloud and deprive them of all unpleasant things. Anyone who goes there with their parents will probably not forget it in life and may even be proud of having done it together later on.

Should the parents be there?

From the eighth grade, the children can certainly go there on their own – they also meet schoolmates and teachers. That’s why we have set different places so that they can find each other there. It was important to us that the groups went together, we even heard that some of them put up signs stating which kindergarten or school class they came from.

But you can also come without a child?

Of course, we are happy about everyone. A few students told me how happy they are that there is something out here and that they don’t have to go to Munich for a demo.

The process of the demo in Grafing:

6 p.m Volksfestplatz: Meeting point for the school family of the Max Mannheimer Gymnasium Grafing and train start. The ‘HotStix’, drum line of the Grafinger Jugendorchester, precede it.

6:10 p.m Grafing Stadt S-Bahn station: All participants from Ebersberg and Kirchseeon meet here.

6.30 p.m Market place: The procession moves from the assembly point for the members of all other Grafinger schools to the fairground

6.45 p.m Volksfestplatz: final rally

Among others, the mayors from Grafing and Ebersberg, Christian Bauer and Uli Proske, as well as the members of the state parliament Thomas Huber (CSU) and Doris Rauscher (SPD) will speak. A Ukrainian interpreter is also present.

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