ISSUE 33
SPRING 2001
Peace Matters index
 

 

 

   

making peace where we live

 
 


ONLINE contents

- crimes of war
- caught in the act
- good behaviour
- security in new millenium
- gun running
- making peace where we live

 


Thanks to careful preparation by UNESCO’s Culture of Peace Program, and the efforts of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Society, an international coalition of peace education NGOs, including a team of peace educators, interdisciplinary peace researchers, and peace building practitioners, began working together with local colleagues around the world to develop peace education materials for use in local elementary schools. From the beginning there was a particular focus on a course for fifth and sixth-graders in every country on the theme ‘Making Peace Where I Live.’ This age group received special attention because many children, particularly in the Two-Thirds World, did not have schooling opportunities beyond the fifth or sixth grade.

involving children
The basic concept was to involve children in interviewing peacemakers in their local communities—elders, healers, leaders in local faith groups, leaders in local market associations, women’s organisations and other grassroots groups, and local councils—in short, local residents who could offer diverse models of nonviolent conflict resolution and could speak with children about the various local and cultural resources for dealing with differences peacefully. After understanding the local processes and resources, children were introduced to the political and civic structures of their country responsible for the peaceful resolution of conflicts—as well as support for human rights, economic development, stewardship of the environment, and economic justice. Exercises also helped children explore the international network of non governmental organisations and the United Nations system.

School readers and workbooks were prepared to be translated into a number of languages as the program developed, and local workshops for teachers were planned for co-operating states to help local teachers find ways to link traditional peacemaking practices in the area to materials in the readers. The approach was flexible enough to be adapted either to school settings or to youth- oriented community settings, such as recreation programs, scouting organisations, youth clubs, religious organisations, etc. Local women’s organisations were very active in helping to organise these workshops and participated in them as well. Thus the peace education and training process became multigenerational, including especially the grandmothers and the wise elders of each community. Local radio and television stations were encouraged to pick up on this material and adapt it to their programs. A special version was planned for men’s village councils. An unexpected outcome was the evolution of village peace celebrations with intergenerational pantomimes, singing, and dancing that reflected the themes of listening, mediation, and conflict transformation.
This process went very slowly in countries with heavy internal fighting and guerrilla movements. However, in the Great Lakes region of Africa, and Somalia and Sudan, there had been women’s peace groups and village elders trying to do local peacemaking for decades, and these new materials brought fresh life and energy into their peace work. The same was true in the Balkans, and in the states of the former Soviet Union, and also in South Asian countries with a long history of conflict, as well as in Central and South American states.

wider community
Because these peace education and training programs began in schools but involved much of the local community, there began to be a new awareness by families of the schools and what children needed to learn that wasn’t taught in the usual school curriculum. Local farmers and artisans began inviting classes to their fields and shops, showing children how they worked and talking about concerns such as what was happening to the local environment and what could be done about it. Community service learning projects began to be added to the peace education program. Since in recent decades some countries had been encouraging the establishment of community health clinics in the schools, the issue of health education also began to be woven into peace education.

enthusiasm
Children and youth NGOs became very enthusiastic about these programs and, with the help of UNESCO’s school affiliation project, set up a travelling peace education and training network so young people could visit each other’s schools in different countries. This brought up the importance of learning different languages. Local immigrants from other countries were brought into the schools to teach their native languages, and learning new languages became a new hobby.
These developments were possible in the 2001-2010 decade because of the commitment of UNESCO, ECOSOC, UNICEF, and large numbers of peace NGOs and foundations to maintain a strong children’s peace education and training program. Governments quickly saw the advantage of supporting these activities, since they enhanced the bare-bones educational systems of the poorer states, as well as improving both inner-city and rural schools in the One-Third World. Another set of actors that helped support and expand the peace education programs locally were the interfaith NGOs. The World Parliament of Religions, the International Interfaith Peace Council, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the United Religious Initiative all worked together to persuade often-reluctant local temples, churches, and synagogues to study these school readers in their places of worship and come together locally in interfaith gatherings to practice mutual listening and dealing with their differences.
Not only did interfaith groups support the school programs, they added new elements to the study and practice of peacemaking both in schools and communities by linking it to the Buddhist-inspired practice of deep ecology. Local workshops helped people of all ages to reconnect with their often deteriorating environment in the specific context of their personal lifeways.


Extraxt from: Cultures of Peace – the hidden side of history. Elise Boulding. Syracuse University Press.