This year’s Renewing Our Minds (ROM) gathering brought together about 45 young leaders from the Balkans and beyond July 1-15, 2021 in Crikvenica, Croatia. The program focused on identity, forgiveness, reconciliation, and leadership based on the principles of Jesus. The interactive program took the participants on a journey from “Who is Jesus?” and “Who am I?” to help them see those around them more clearly, the challenges they are facing, and how they can respond to those challenges.

Specific issues covered included the understanding challenges faced by refugees, human trafficking victims, and sex workers, maintaining integrity, combating nationalism, increasing political engagement, and moving from an aid to a development mindset. This year a new feature was added to our program this – a peace negotiations simulation which participants shared helped them better understand the complex nature of resolving territorial and other disputes and the importance of listening to and understanding the other side in any conflict.

"It’s amazing to meet all these people and hear everyone’s story and work,” shared a participant from Romania. “I am more confronted with realities I chose not to see before and my next challenge will be to find out where I fit in, and where I can be of most use."

When asked what part of ROM impacted him the most, a participant from Bosnia, responded: "The part where everyone is so nice to each other, everyone is open minded, not judging, everybody is respectful and kind. Everyone from the ROM team is so kind and helpful, they are understanding and compassionate about everything we say. I am glad I had the opportunity to meet all those people since each one of the ROM team and participants are so kind and open to friendship."

Participants were young people ages 18-35, mainly from the Balkans (former Yugoslavia and surrounding countries) but also a few from Western Europe. They represented a total of 16 countries. About half were students and other half are young professionals, working in public policy, education, medicine, NGOs, and other spheres. We believe that the number of people reached will be large as participants return home and share and apply what they learned with friends, family, and colleagues. This year’s participants join a group of over 1000 leaders who have been part of ROM programs since its inception in 1999.