Tribute given by Judy Shotten, Servas Israel,
at Servas Youth Meeting, Istanbul July 2008
Bob died at 89 years old, on 13 April 2008, in Bellingham, USA near the Canadian border.
In 1942 he studied for one year at university, then came the war. As a conscientious objector he went to jail for two years. There he studied Gandhi and Esperanto. He taught the other prisoners to speak Esperanto. After prison, he worked in the social services.
In 1948 he made his first trip to Europe returning in 1949 to the Folk High School in Askov, Denmark, where the idea for Servas ('we serve' in Esperanto) developed.
Bob thought that Servas could open doors to young people who had been Nazi soldiers. The Danes called him a “fantast,” a wild dreamer. But he connected with the Christian Pacifist Movement, the Peace Movement, the International Voluntary Service for Peace and the Quaker Work Camps. He went to talk to them and opened doors.
Bob thought that the world would be a better place if we started with young people, if they could just sit and discuss and work on a project together. Then they would return to their own countries and work on projects to create an international movement.
Bob started Servas in the US as a non-military movement. He was passionate, provocative, argumentative, and a committed internationalist. He thought we could solve the problems of the world by talking to each other.
Recently, Bob thought that Servas had become much too middle class and was losing sight of how we can build a peaceful world, that we need to go back to the basic philosophy and values of Servas.
According to Bob, Servas wasn’t planned, it just grew, all the way along. Servas could be one of the most exciting popular organisations on the planet.
Servas - A light in the dark
In this interview, Bob talks about looking at the causes of war, not just anti-war slogans. He advocates peace-building in the community, via practical actions and projects. He paints a picture of the wider world. Servas helps people to get out of their ethnic cage. Servas offers a work-study-travel programme, not just low cost hospitality. Bob thought that just knowing each other doesn’t make peace, but Servas offers a way to solve problems that others cannot come near to solving, an insight into learning how young people solve problems in other countries.
... and some extracts from many remembrances ..
from Servas USA
Bob was asked late in his life "Bob, what do you want to be remembered for?", Bob's characteristic reply was "You are missing my point!" He was sometimes abrupt, out-spoken and impatient, but he did not want to be remembered for himself, he wanted to be a part of the future, to be a part of a grass-roots movement of young people taking back their power to create a peaceful, sustainable world.
from Servas Belgium-Luxembourg
This is a sad moment for the Servas Community just before the celebration of 60 years of Servas. But we must be happy Bob could be active so many years and followed up the evolution of Servas until now.
from Servas Britain
Although we regret that he is no longer there in body we acknowledge his ideas and visions. We hope to extend these to transcend the hassles of life, to give us an overview to help us move forward with the aim of people living together peacefully.
from Chris Slader, Servas Britain
His vision of a global village and Servas as one route towards it remains one of my anchors.
from Sercan Duygan, Servas Turkey
Thanks Bob for your all desire and dreams to create Servas for human peace.
from Servas Togo
All the members of Servas-Togo and I, we sending our sincere condolences In Togo we are very very touched by this sad news.
from Michael Johnson, Servas Canada
I'm sure that, instead of shedding a tear for him, Bob would rather we shed a drop of perspiration working toward a more peaceful world.
from Servas Pakistan
He sacrificed his noble life for the flourishment of the plant named `peace`. The plant which was the output of the seeds of love, sympathy, humanity, charity, understanding & tolerance.
from Gurdev Singh, Servas India
It is indeed a very sad moment for everyone of us in Servas to reflect on the sad demise of dear Bob Luitweiler, founding father of Servas International.
.............and finally from Bob in his last article
When I started Servas the vision was to create an international network that has strong social concerns including individuals who were actually doing something practical about them.
Gandhian ideals believe they can work for an alternate social order based on peace and understanding. Servas International has the potential of spreading this ideal to many corners of the world.