Education for peace in a multi-religious world
The Association Miraisme International attended the event “Education for Peace in a multi-religious world”, which took place at the United Nations on the 10th of December 2018. The event was organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue and the World Council of Churches, and was held on the occasion of the 2018 World Human Rights Day – Geneva, 10 December 2018.
The invited panelists of the meeting were: Reverend Dr Peniel Rajkumar – Executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation with the World Council of Churches, Monsignor Indunil Janakaratne – Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Professor Anantanand Rambachan – Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College (US), Professor Majeda Omar – Associate Professor of Contemporary Western Philosophy at the University of Jordan, former Director of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies of Jordan, Dr. Debbie Weissman – Former President of the International Council of Christians and Jews, author of “Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist: A Life of Activism through Dialogue”, Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe – Director of Arigatou International Geneva – Ethics Education for Children, Mr. Renato Opertti – Senior Programme Specialist, IBE-UNESCO, Ms. Beris Gwynne – Founder and Managing Director of Incitare. Former Australian diplomat and aid official and NGO Executive, Mr. Jan-Willem Bult – Head of Children & Youth Media and Chief Editor of WADADA News for Kids, and moderated by Ambassador Idriss Jazairy – Executive Director of the Geneva Centre.
The event was organized in order to discuss the role of education in developing peaceful and harmonious communities by promoting tolerance and empathy between people. It consisted of two panels. The first one was focused on the impact of peace education to promote mutual understanding and cooperative relations between people and societies. The second one was rather practical to exhibit the concrete implementation and practical hands-on experience in the field of peace education.
Ambassador Jazairy opened the debate delivering a statement issued by the Chairman of the Geneva Centre, Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, on the occasion of World Human Rights Day 2018, – “Education constitutes an important building block to enhance inter-faith dialogue, break down social barriers and to overcome the fear of the Other.”
Speaking further on peace, challenges jeopardizing it and the impact of education, Mr. Jazairy said, – “We are currently witnessing a pincer movement of two forces that differ in their expression but both of whom, draw on the rejection of “the Other”: the rise of xenophobic populism in advanced societies, and extremist violence in the Arab region. This is a worrying context. A context which is likely to worsen in the future if we do nothing about it. In these turbulent times, equal access to education can open vital spaces for cooperation. Spaces that will enable us to enhance inter-faith dialogue, break down social barriers, overcome ignorance and the fear of “the Other”. Education can help lift the veil of ignorance that has befallen many societies. It is undeniable that the first step towards social harmony starts with educating our youth. Education for Peace and equal citizenship rights will help the youth to appreciate religious diversity as a source of richness, rather than as a threat.”
The conference primarily focused on how education for peace in multi-religious societies can engage different stakeholders to counter violent extremist narratives, build peaceful and inclusive societies as well as to promote universally shared values upheld in diverse faiths and value systems. The panelists discussed from different religious perspectives on how the promotion of education for peace in schools can be enhanced in order to build peaceful and inclusive societies with multiple faith communities. For instance, Dr. Rajkumar on behalf of the general secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev. Dr Olav Fyske Tveit who was unable to attend the panel discussion, said, – “The question of how faith communities can educate for peace in a world torn by war and conflict is most pressing in today’s world… As Christians we seek peace, and we educate our people to seek peace, because to do so is a clear expression of our obedience to the call of Christ to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves… Inclusivity is one of the most important principles to reshape education. For Christians, the theological foundation that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:27) is at the core of this principle of inclusivity and should shape educational methodologies and practice.” Elaborating further on this principle the two practical implications were discussed by Dr. Rajkumar – to make education accessible and affirmative. Namely, it is important that education is not limited on gender, and affirmative as accurate representation of other religions in multi religion world. As part of an interreligious contribution to education for peace, which faith communities can undertake together it is to focus not only on the promotion of knowledge but also on developing skills to translate them into concrete action and behavioral practice. Faith communities need to work toward enhancing the capacity for behavioral change, based on a genuine respect for the dignity of all human beings.
For his part, Mr. Janakaratne, going into the core of violence said that since violence in the world is the outward manifestation of violence in human hearts, it is important to focus on education, especially of children, so educate the citizens of tomorrow. And about the need to humanize education.
Other speakers continued further on significance of education and peace, importance for us to learn how to leave in peace and in harmony all together, how to build peaceful and exclusive societies by promoting universal shared values, promotion of inter-religious dialogue through education as well as discussing the programs to build ethical values in children education and strategic foresight for education.