Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights - Osijek was established in 1992 by the joining up of a small number of women and men (five of them), whereas women were, just like today, in a majority. The joining up had the form of "embroidery" - at first of very immediate, interpersonal relations, and as a reaction to what had been happening - to the war. The aspect of giving warning of the war threat and its prevention failed to appear, moreover, we were aware that we couldn''t influence the course of war. However, by publicly demonstrating our choice for termination of war and a consenting conflict resolution, against the idea of an ethnically clean state and the practice of ethnic cleansing we gave a modest contribution to the preservation of values that were of key importance for the building of a democratic society and a sustainable peace. The Anti-war Campaign of Croatia (ARK), especially Vesna Teršelič, gave us help and support - we started as a branch, and later on as a member, of ARC. Traude Rebman, Adam Curle, Herbert Froelich, Dirk Heinrichs, Kristopf Zimmer, Herb Walters, Margareta Ingelstam are some of those who among the first came to us, encouraged us, taught, empowered, and helped us... (see "Touch of Hope")
Everyday help to the needy, constant learning, as well as development of strategy and programmatic development of the Centre for Peace were our answers to those early post-war circumstances in which we felt the need, motivation, and courage to work.
We created them as we went. We deliberated, learned and worked gradually, but at the same time, in three ways and in co-responding areas: by alleviating war traumas, opposing violation of human rights in our community, and supporting peace processes. That variety of the way and area of work became possible with the increase of the Centre''s membership and with specialisation of our work.
We started with the projects of psychosocial support to displaced persons, women, exiled teachers and children. Since autumn 1992 we have been organizing non-violent protection for our co-citizens in cases of threats and dispossession, we started to publicly come forward against violation of human rights and we established free legal aid. We supported the peace process in Eastern Croatia when only few believed (and those who could give rational arguments for that process could not get the floor in the public) in the end of war without a repeated military action. In cooperation with peace organizations from Serbia and with the help of "Peace Bridge" we organized meetings in Hungary for about 1300 people who were from war-divided families, friends, previous neighbours, women, youth. We took part in establishment and work of the office for legal aid and protection of human rights during the coordination of Organizations for Protection of Human Rights (immediately after the military-police action in Western Slavonia), and later of the project "Rebuilding of Trust and Return" in Pakrac. Together with peace organizations from Serbia we gave our help to the integration of other populations and to peaceful return of refugees and displaced people, and to preparations and monitoring of local elections in the UNTAES area of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sermium. For the period of three years after the return and peaceful integration a network of Peace Teams worked on prevention of violence, decrease of tensions, opening of communication and trust building among citizens in 10 multi-ethnic local communities from that area. Nowadays, we are not only present in that war-torn area through different peace projects, but also through offices for free-of-charge legal aid. We have made our contribution to considerations and to the realization of the idea of GONG (Citizens Organised Monitoring of Elections) and pre-election campaign of non-government organisations "Glas 99".
At the very beginning we understood that agreeing about and implementing values and attitudes, as well as skills of communication, conflict management, teamwork, and management were necessary for our work. During the first two years our members went through a set of trainings/education and in that way prepared for work. Convinced that education for peace and democracy are the basic means for empowerment, we have integrated it in almost all our programs and projects, even in the program for work with war veterans.
We accomplished the transition from the early post-war to long-term "peacetime" peace building with several strategically important decisions:
1. we focused on special educational programs and services;
2.we have been developing models, methods, and approaches to peace building by providing help to the development of local communities;
3.we have introduced mediation services;
4.we participated in cross-border projects on the building of common security in the region;
5.we have established and we are developing the program of support to the development of civil society organizations;
6.we are putting a lot of effort into conducting and publishing research on the external impact of peace projects in order to enrich strategies and approaches to peace building through our experience.
Working through media and the public has always been our intention but, unfortunately, so far not sufficiently realised.
Today, thirteen years later, with all the difficulties and early wanderings, with the increase of membership, area of work, obligations, tasks, and ambitions, the Centre for Peace seems to function and keep its position as a group of individuals related through some common ethical and political values.