Sunday, October 07, 2012

SEMINAR: “Freedom - Religion – Tradition: Secularism, Religion and Civil Rights in Liberal Societies”

( Our seminar “Freedom - Religion – Tradition: Secularism, Religion and Civil Rights in Liberal Societies”, which will be held in cooperation with VVD International in Novkhani, Azerbaijan, and is targeted for young liberal activists from party and civil society organizations as well as representatives from progressive and traditional religious Muslim communities in Azerbaijan, begins on 4th October. The first participants and trainers are arriving now. Check our page later in the afternoon for the first impressions from Novkhani!

THE FLYING DUTCHMEN, Notes from our Novkhani reporter team Anna, Narmin and Rufat

Day 1, 4th October 2012

“Freedom - Religion -Tradition” seminar organized by FNF and VVD International began on the 4th October, 2012 at Novkhani Olimpic Ho

The 1st day began with a presentation by the FNF team about the work and goals of FNF and the announcement of seminar agenda. The participants had an opportunity to introduce themselves in an unusual way suggested by the first trainer, Shahla Sultanova, freelance journalist. 21 different and highly controversial statements on religion were disseminated; each participant had to introduce themselves and present their opinion on a particular statement. Instead of a typical introduction we had a lively discussion on the seminar topic and got acquainted with each other additionally.
tel in Azerbaijan. About 25 young people from different political parties, civil society, religious community and liberal active youth participate in this seminar.

What the participants did not know was the fact that Shahla was attentively observing the non-verbal communication skills of the participants. To the surprise of the presenters everybody got a deep analysis of their presentations, strong and weak sides were pointed out. An interactive workshop on non-verbal communication and self-presentation followed, virtuously moderated by Shahla Sultanova. At the end of the day the participants worked in groups, presented their results and got feedback and recommendations from the trainer.

Stay tuned for more notes from the seminar in the next days :)

more to Shahla Sultanova: Sultanova Sultanova
Day 2, 5th October 2012

“Freedom - Religion -Tradition” seminar organized by FNF and VVD International continued on the 5th October, 2012 at Novkhani Olimpic Hotel in Azerbaijan. The 25 participants from different groups had an informative, but also a tiring day.

First of all, the participants met new trainers from VVD that will be with them for the next three days: Kamran Ullah and Fleur de Beaufort and their coordinator Friso Rip. They all had quite intensive, but still interesting sessions.

In the first session, the trainers presented themselves and VVD International, explained the schedule of the next few days and conducted a game with questions regarding gender, university degree, work, political and religious views. By this way trainers learned main information about participants, as well as the participants got to know each other better again.
In the next session participants worked in a workshop in small groups; they were asked to write some keywords that they link to liberalism. Words such as freedom, liberty, rule of law, free market economy were the most named, however some new approaches to liberalism were discussed. This undermined the individuality and different ways of thinking of the participants.

In the third session, there was mainly discussion among participants and trainers about secularism and religion in a liberal state. At the end of the working day, participants worked outside, in the open air, so they could enjoy fantastic weather in Novkhani. They were divided into 3 groups and asked to prepare presentation about types of neutralities; each team had one of the types of neutrality (exclusive, inclusive, compensatory). The aim of the presentations was not only to discuss the state approach to religion, but also to practice debating skills. Finally, the participants were praised by their trainer Kamran Ullah for their active participation and input into discussions and could enjoy their free time in the evening with a happy feeling :)

More notes from Novkhani are coming soon, stay tuned!

Day 3, 6th October 2012

“Freedom - Religion -Tradition” seminar organized by FNF and VVD International continued on the 6th October, 2012 in Novkhani, Azerbaijan.

The 3rd day started with discussion and workshop on liberalism and civil society. Fleur de Beaufort shared thoughts of Robert Putnam, American thinker, who classified functions of social capital as bounding, bridging and linking. Furthermore, she explained the links between the state and religion by giving a triangle example, where she illustrated the state, human society and free market economy at the each side of the triangle. She explained that if government has an official religion, it will push religion to society, and it will affect human rights. But if government is neutral and society chooses its religion itself, it will come from the bottom, which is the best way of governing. After this information session participants asked many different questions and expressed their opinion to Fleur.

In the second session, after the coffee break, our trainer Kamran Ullah held a session on debating skills and taught us how to exchange our opinions; also Kamran explained what the differences between discussion and debate are. After the briefing the participants were divided into four groups and were asked to debate two questions, "Is liberalism a threat to religion?" and "Is Baku a nice city for living?”. The participants had fifteen minutes to prepare for the debate and after that they had ten minutes debate for each topic.

After the lunch we began the third session with Fleur. The topic of the session was tolerance. Some main ideas about tolerance were presented by the trainer; then the working groups were given a group work. They were asked to prepare presentation about the controversial film about Muslims, "The innocence of Muslims". Two groups made their presentations about the tolerance points of this film, and two groups presented the positive and negative ways of Obama's apologizing to Muslim people of the world. During the debates trainers listened attentively and gave feedback to the presenters to help to improve their debate skills.

In the last session, the participants had a workshop about gender issues. They were divided into two groups by their sex, and both groups were asked to describe their ideal man and woman and to write five questions to each other. In this session so many different and interesting opinions were exchanged, and participants had lots of fun by discussing gender differences and each other views on this issue.

Tomorrow is our last day in Novkhani, but we still have some interesting sessions and discussions ahead of us. Don’t forget to visit our facebook-page again soon again, so you will not miss the concluding notes from our reporter team.

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