Our penultimate day saw the committee sessions close and our participants tie up discussions that have raged, unraveled, developed, and blossomed over the 2014 MJC. With the trust that has been built between participants and our experienced chairs over the course of past week, we have witnessed our committees address mutual concerns sensitively and constructively in a way that wider society has failed to do. Controversial discussions of identity, symbolism, gender, hate speech, sexuality, conflict and the clash of religious with political values have risen out of our committees and will be channeled through blog posts written by our participants in the coming weeks.
Participants in the ‘Anti-Semitism & Islamophobia in the Media’ committee looked to future collaborative projects by asking fundamental questions about themselves – are we doing enough to not be a bystander? How will we reflect on current issues in the future?
Following a similar path, our new committee on ‘Collective Memory’ ended with the ways in which young Bosnian generations imagine the former Yugoslavian Republic through the songs of their elders. The weight of memory evoked questions of how trauma can be represented in collaboration with a committee on ‘Art & Culture’, also new to our 2014 conference.
These pioneering committees that explored Jewish and Muslim contexts made for interesting project proposals, which were unveiled at the Closing Ceremony the next day.
After committee sessions the participants visited a mosque in Vienna, which was an exciting experience for many Jewish participants who had never visited a mosque before. The imam of the mosque addressed the participants and introduced the history of the mosque. Participants also learnt about the basic beliefs or the “Five Pillars” of Islam and learnt about the significance of movements and motions during the prayer. The most exciting part of the visit for many non-Muslim participants came when the Asr prayer began, with Muslims praying in a congregation, while non-Muslim participants observed the prayer service.
The program continued late into the evening as MJC hosted a social event at Grelle Forelle, where participants got a chance to let their hair down and enjoy dinner and dance after an intense week of emotional discussions, eye-opening field trips and enlightening guest speaker sessions. The event was an ideal opportunity to meet people outside of committees in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.