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Living in the Encounter

22.04.2015

Congresses are a free initiative and are organized on a voluntary basis but do not involve the establishment of a legal entity, and are meant for persons with disabilities. Even after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted, such people still face discrimination and intolerance on a daily basis. Many events are meant to discuss their problems and rights, but they are held without them being present. Congresses demonstrate the need to change the situation and focus on the people that have been sidelined so far. Choosing big cities as venues for such congresses helps change the situation. All the Congresses are structured in a similar way and include reports, cultural events, master classes and excursions and are united by one common topic. Needless to say, they are an opportunity to meet people, communicate and exchange experience.

The first European Congress ‘Living in the Encounter’ was held in 1998 in Berlin and attracted 500 participants. Since then, congresses have been held in Dornach (2001), Prague (2005), the Hague (2008), and Vienna (2011). Every country chooses its own symbols and colors for the congress. Since 2009 Thomas Kraus and his team have been trying to spread this initiative all over the world. The Congress is held in Europe on a regular basis, widening its scope and being introduced in South America, Eastern Europe, and South-East Asia. It is noteworthy that the movement has received more attention in developing countries where people with disabilities have to face more difficulties on their way to self-realization.

Thomas Kraus
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Thomas Kraus is the person standing at the roots and the organizer of ‘Living in the Encounter’ European Congresses of people with disabilities, member of the Council of Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy Cooperation Organizations, head of the international cooperation of curative education teachers and social physicians of the Friends of the Art of Education of Rudolph Steiner Fund. He is a social teacher and a teacher of Waldorf School. He has also been head of a nursing home for persons with disabilities in Berlin for 11 years now. On 12 March, 2012 in Berlin, Tomas Kraus was awarded for the organization of international congresses for people with disabilities as a significant contribution to the development of civil society. It was one of the seven Berlin initiatives chosen by the Council For Democracy and Tolerance in the contest of democratic initiatives in 2011.The award was given by the current burgomaster of Berlin Klaus Wowereit and professor Wolfgang Benz, member of the board of guardians of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance. According to Tomas Kraus, the award is not only for him but for the ones that took part in the many European Congresses and made the spread of the movement all over the world possible.
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Russia has already hosted two national congresses: in Moscow (2010) and Yekaterinburg (2012). The 6th European Congress in Brussels is being looked forward to and will the held in May, 2015. What is more, the possibility to hold the first worldwide Congress for Persons with Disabilities on the border between Europe and Asia in Yekaterinburg is already under discussion. Thomas Kraus says, ‘I am happy that our initiative lives on and is developing all over the world, as such encounters are what gives meaning to life.’

In December, 2014, Yekaterinburg hosted a meeting of Thomas Kraus with the organizational council of the future congress that is going to be held in 2017 in Yekaterinburg where it was agreed that the Congress needs to be held. And here is a proof that a lot is being done in that direction – and rather successfully.

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