The seeds of the Servas organization were sown in 1948 by the American conscientious war objector, Bob Luitweiler, along with a small group of pacifists representing several peace organizations in Birmingham, England. While a student at one of Denmark’s well known folk schools (Askov Hojskole), Bob studied cooperative communities and alternative methods for settling disputes. The founders were deeply committed to social justice and the prevention of another tragic World War II holocaust. They believed it was possible to build stronger foundations for world peace by helping concerned people meet and learn from one another.
This informal group formed a small Peacebuilders team, which later became the coordinating body of the European program. Volunteers were first found in countries of northwestern Europe who could offer free hospitality to approved foreign travelers. In grassroots fashion, staffed completely by the voluntary efforts of concerned people, the movement spread. It was hoped that, by traveling in an “open door” style, people would work together to develop new intercultural and service programs in their home communities. These relationships and the local projects they created would in turn become the building blocks of a more just and compassionate world.
2019 marks the 70th anniversary of this remarkable organization in which the 15,000 members of Servas have successfully worked together to spread their message of cultural undertsanding, diversity and tolerance in over 120 countries.
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