“What is this trust” was the motto of the German Protestant Kirchentag in Dortmund, held between 19th and 23rd June 2019. With our motto “Child rights cannot be allowed to remain a dream”, we looked back with much gratitude on 60 years of Kindernothilfe. It was the highlight of our anniversary year. Many visitors joined our celebrations, taking part in a wide range of activities. Alongside our information stalls at the Markt der Möglichkeiten (market of opportunities) and the opening Abend der Begegnung (evening of encounter), we were also involved in concerts, for example with Culcha Candela, and an interactive worship service for young and old.
The weather on Wednesday evening may not have been ideal, but that did not spoil the mood during the evening of encounter. In keeping with our Kindernothilfe motto, “Child rights cannot be allowed to remain a dream”, the recently founded “Friends of Kindernothilfe, Dortmund” helped us to collect the dreams of visitors. With their “Bergmanns-Kniften”, a local speciality of farmhouse bread with humus, quark with herbs or lard, and Mettwurst sausages, our “Friends” also catered for the physical wellbeing of visitors.
At the open-air concert on Thursday evening, the Cologne pop group, “Alte Bekannte” (old acquaintances), and the hip-hop band, “Culcha Candela” (with their hits "Hamma", "Monsta"), turned up the heat for the audience crowded into Hansa Platz. Fifteen thousand Kirchentag visitors were determined not to miss this unusual mix of styles. Kindernothilfe Ambassador, Sabine Heinrich, hosted the programme, which also introduced serious topics to a wider audience. For example, Kindernothilfe’s chief executive officer, Katrin Weidemann, spoke about the current global situation of child rights. And Ysrael Diloy, Kindernothilfe’s child protection trainer in Asia, reported on his work with street children in his home country, the Philippines, and on child protection training for partner organisations. And, at the end of the concert, a collective shiver went through the entire Hansa Platz when they all started singing along with the Irish travel blessing.
The atmosphere among the very young Kirchentag visitors was no less exuberant. With his mixture of child-friendly singalong music and political discussion, children’s singer-songwriter Reinhard Horn struck the right note with children and parents alike. In the one-hour child rights concert, Horn spoke to Katrin Weidemann about such issues as the consequences of climate change for the world’s children. And, through fun and games in the activity tent, people of all ages enjoyed learning about the work of Kindernothilfe.
If all goes well …, God! This was the title of the family worship service on Saturday, presented in co-operation with the children's worship association of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), children’s singer-songwriter Reinhard Horn and a team from the parish of Oelde. The service included a puppet show telling the story of the siege of Jerusalem at the time of King Hezekiah. The themes included trust, one’s own wishes and that children’s rights cannot be allowed to remain a dream. At the time, King Hezekiah had imposed a different way of thinking in his country. When he was in an apparently hopeless situation, he chose not to surrender, but to look for a better alternative. And so, hope sprang to life at a time without hope. We can trust in the knowledge that God also knows the way our lives should take, knows the solutions and is powerful among us. During the sermon, worshippers had the opportunity to participate in activities at seven stations that were all related in some way to the story and Kindernothilfe.
At the market of opportunities in the Westfalen Halls in Dortmund, Kindernothilfe’s attractively designed stall caused something of a sensation. It was modelled on a Duisburg street from the late 1950s, at the time of Kindernothilfe’s foundation. And, of course, it would not have been complete without the obligatory kiosk. This “pick-and-mix bag” played host to many interesting discussions and encounters. Alongside all the hundreds of conversations with visitors, sponsors, supporters, acquaintances – old and new, colleagues from other agencies and organisations, a number of prominent visitors also paid a visit. The Parliamentary State Secretary, Dr Maria Flachsbarth, from the Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), dropped in to discuss the rights and protection of working children. From Syria, the President of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches, Rev. Haroutune Selimian, and the Secretary General of the National Evangelical Synods in Syria and Lebanon, Rev. Joseph Kassab, also visited us – together with the General Secretary of the Gustav Adolf Agency (GAW), Enno Haaks, to report on the situation of children in the war-torn and bombed-out city of Aleppo: their traumas and injuries, and the difficulties they face, under precarious conditions, trying to restore proper school operations. A group of young people from the training and occupational training centre, run by Kindernothilfe’s partner, “Diakonie Kosova” from Mitrovica, in the north of Kosovo, paid a pleasantly surprising visit. Bernd Baumgarten, former managing director of the Diakonie Agency in Trier, told a captivated audience about the 15-year history of Kindernothilfe’s co-operation with the project. The young people, from very different ethnic backgrounds, then performed an impressive rap/dance performance for an enthusiastic audience directly in front of our stall.
It was also very busy at the “interactive parcours” in the one world tent. Here, Kirchentag visitors could visit a series of stations, learning about the UN sustainability goals (SDGs) on the way. Child labour and education were the focus of the Kindernothilfe exhibition. For many guests, the interactive nature of the exhibition opened up a completely new perspective on the important issues involved in poverty alleviation.