72 Hours of Action

2015. december 07., hétfő

Around the country, 8,000 people joined in the ecumenical volunteer time of action called “72 hours – No Compromise” between the 8th and 11th of October. Church leaders say that the future can count on the youth that participated this year who “have good hearts and are ready to help and spread humane values”. 

This year a group of 8,257 people accepted the challenge of the three historical churches and spent time volunteering at 286 projects in just 72 hours. The 357 teams learned what their volunteering project would be at an opening ceremony on the 8th; they then had 3 days to finish them. The volunteers took part in social, development, and ecological projects: they picked up trash, planted trees, renovated playgrounds, visited the elderly, the sick and the disabled, and they also organized activities for children.

Gates between God and people

“A lot of people – including me – would like to help others, but most of the time we don’t do anything because we have no idea where and how to start,” said the Hungarian actor Miklós H. Vecsei, who was the patron of  this year’s 72 hours of service. The young actor of Víg Theatre considers 72 hours an event where people can make this first step toward volunteer work. He emphasized the importance that young people are with their friends and they can enjoy themselves while they help others.

The idea for this project originally came from Germany, and Austria then developed it further into a complex project that has since spread into neighbouring countries like Switzerland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and Poland. One of the special aspects of the Hungarian project is that, unlike in other countries, there is a strong commitment to organize the event every year. According to the organizers’ experience, youth can be more motivated of service to others this way.

The “72 hours – No Compromise” project first took place in 2006 – organized by the Győr and the Szombathely Catholic Church District – and it is now a joint project of the Lutheran, Catholic, and Reformed Churches since 2007. “This even is a gate, through which we can reach the youth,” says Szontágh Szabolcs, RCH youth officer. According to the head of the Reformed Youth Office, events like this bring the youth closer to congregations, to the Gospel and to God.

Volunteering is a way of life

This year, church leaders also joined one of the projects on a playground in a residential area in Óbuda where they helped with a family day organized by the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, and 30 volunteers.

“There are so many things in society that need to be solved not by a structure, but by our hearts,” reflected Bishop Székely János. The Catholic Church leader talked about how, in his opinion, God didn’t dream of a world where society is pyramid-like, he dreamt of one where people are of one body, and brothers and sisters to one another. The Bishop expressed his hopes that this “72 hours” program will be an experience of a lifetime for a lot of people and that it will serve as a way to open hearts and connect people to one other.

Szabó István, Bishop of the Reformed Church in Hungary, talked about the symbolic aspect of the location for the service project as well – people drive through one of the 8 lines of the Szentendre road and have no idea that there’s a tiny “island” – a playground – between the blocks of flats. The Ministerial President of RCH Synod up the “what is everyone’s is no one’s” mentality that let so many residential areas and playgrounds erode. “What is ours can be everyone’s,” he said with conviction, and added that the volunteers working in the name of this “have good hearts and are ready to help, and spread humane values,” as they build the country’s future.

“These youth who participate, who are ready to help others and the environment, God chose for them without compromise, sends a clear message: Europe has a future,” said Gáncs Péter, the Lutheran Presiding Bishop. He thinks that older generations should learn from the youth, be it the ecumenical cooperation that breaks the limits of piety, the avoidance of bad compromises, or their willingness to help those God left in their care.

The initiation for the project this year was advocated for by – besides a number of civilian organizations and institutes – the Ministry of Human Resources and the mayor of Budapest. Fülöp Attila, the Undersecretary responsible for Ethnic and Civic Relationships, also approved of the “72 hours – No Compromise” project. He said that, “before, family was the institute where everyone learnt the importance of caring for others. Nowadays it’s less capable of doing so, which is why it’s very important that churches represent these values in society.”  

György Feke 

Translated by Melinda Kara

Photo: Dimény András, Hossala Tamás

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