Community of the Cross of Nails International Youth Conference, Poland
The Third International Youth Conference of the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN) took place in
Poland from the 1st August – 15th August 2009 with the theme: EXPULSIONS! It was attended by 27
delegates from South Africa, USA, UK, East Germany, West Germany, Serbia, Poland, Georgia, Czech
Republic and Belarus. The conference was hosted by Krzyzowa, Kreisau Foundation. The South African
delegation was: Megan Counsell, Marcia Benjamin (St Saviour‟s Church, Claremont), Lusapho
Hlatshaneni, Claire Lester (St Georges Cathedral, Cape Town), Shae Benn (St Mark‟s Cathedral George),
Petrina Pakoe (HOPE Africa)
CCN is a network of centres which have been awarded Community of the Cross of Nails Centre status
by the International Community of the Cross of Nails. This is an arm of the work of the International Centre
for Reconciliation (ICR) based at Coventry Cathedral in the UK. There are approximately 180 Cross of
Nails Centres throughout the world. The worldwide work of the CCN is inspired by the story of reconciliation
between the Cathedral Church of St Michael in Coventry and Cathedrals and Churches in Germany which
were bombed during the Second World War.
The cross-pollination of ideas resulting from this work led to the appointment of a full-time youth worker to
lead the development of CCN youth work in Germany. The purpose of the appointment has been to spread
the message of reconciliation to the next generation, based on the Coventry story, thereby uniting them in
understanding their uniqueness and differences by developing tolerance and acceptance in celebrating
their richness in diversity. The first international youth conference was held in Germany in 2002, followed
by a conference in South Africa in 2006. The aim is to have an international youth conference every three
There was great significance in the conference being held at Krzyzowa, Kreisau. From the 19 th century the
property had been the family seat of the noble family of Moltke. This is where members of the anti-Nazi
Kreisau Circle met, hosted by Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. His mother, Dorothy (née Rose-Innes), was
a South African of British descent, the daughter of Sir James Rose-Innes, the highest judge in the Union of
South Africa. On 12 November 1989 the Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and the German
Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl held a reconciliation meeting at Kreisau and decided to redevelop the
property as an international youth meeting place. In 1998 the centre was officially opened and in 2000 it
received a Cross of Nails.
As part of the introductions of the conference, delegates were required to introduce their countries and the
political and social challenges faced in each country. Delegates got a full understanding of the role played
by the Kreisau Circle during World War Two and the road of reconciliation between Germany and Poland.
The Krzyzowa, Kreisau Foundation Centre is a place where people from all walks of life can come together
to learn from and teach each other. Delegates had the opportunity to work on the clearing of land and
restoration of a refugee camp in Krzyzowa and to fill land at a playground at the centre.
The theme being „expulsions‟, delegates attended various workshops, presentations and watched
documentaries on expulsions in South Africa and various parts of Eastern Europe. They were given the
opportunity to debate the topic and express their feelings in dramas/plays and collages.
The conference provided the opportunity for a visit to the Millennium Centre in Wroclaw, where there was
an exhibition on the “History of Europe.” Delegates found this most informative. As part of getting to know
the city better, they were given a treasure hunt through the city of Wroclaw to the different historical sites of
the city, where clues and information had to be sourced on the buildings and street. The hunt ended at one
of the oldest Protestant Churches in Wroclaw where a service was led By Revd Hartmut Ebeiemer. There
was a visit to Peace Church of the Holy Trinity in Swidnica. It is the largest wooden church in Europe and is
a world heritage site.
The visit to the Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp had a major impact on the delegates. They had a guided
tour of the camp and after the visit there was a debriefing session in which delegates got share their
emotions that they had experienced while on the tour.
David Porter, the newly appointed Director of the International Centre for Reconciliation came to spend the
last week with the delegates in which he shared his future vision for CCN. Delegates were given the
opportunity to brainstorm with David around the next CCN conference which will be held in Coventry.
The most powerful message that came across during evaluation was that delegates came with a particular
perception and prejudice towards a particular country because of propaganda and stories shared over
generations. They however left feeling that their mindsets have been changed and that they have a
responsibility to go and share what they have learnt to ensure that there is not another war.
CCN Centres in South Africa are:
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George, Grahamstown
Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, Pietermaritzburg
Church of the Ascension, Klein Drakenstein
Diocese of Christ the King
St Mark‟s Cathedral, George, South Africa
St. Cyprian's School, Cape Town
St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town
St. Saviour's Church, Claremont (with Church of the Good Shepherd, Protea)
Volmoed Healing Community
For further information on the ministry of reconciliation and CCN in South Africa, please contact Mrs. Deidre
Legg at: +27 0721494272
Written By: Petrina Pakoe