World Conference on Religion and Peace
Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC)
Commission Activities

 
0 Introduction

 
In line with initiatives of the earlier World Assemblies of the World Conference on Religion and Peace the 1994 Sixth Assembly in Riva del Garda/Italy called for the establishment of WCRP International Standing Commissions to ensure more continuity in the different areas. After a Pilot Phase (1997/98)[1] the Peace Education Standing Commission of WCRP was officially established at the chair for Religious Education at the university of Erlangen-Nürnberg/Germany networking from there with partners at the office of WCRP International in New York/USA, in Thailand (Hans van Willenswaard) and Switzerland (Dr Yahya Hassan Bajwa). In a paper originally submitted to the Seventh World Assembly in Amman/Jordan (1999) and revised in 2000 after the Assembly the main issues and insights of PESC work were summarised like this: 
“In our work we have identified 3 major areas of Peace Education in which Religions are involved:
Religious and Inter-religious Education
Education towards violence free communication and conflict solution
Environmental Education and education for socio-economic development 
We found that in each of these areas we have to confront
1)specific problems and experiences as well as
2) challenges and tasks. But we can also identify
3) possibilities and demands for which we can give recommendations. Finally there are

4) examples which show ways for the implementation of the recommendations.”

The aim of the Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC) is to strengthen the mutual knowledge, the exchange, the systematic analysis and the continuity of consciousness building which are far too little developed till now. In further development WCRP through PESC can support the work of the UNESCO and other international institutions in a specific and necessary way. Instead of repeating earlier publications on the results and routine work of the commission it should be mentioned that the following publications are available at the new PESC-web site http://www.evrel.ewf.uni-erlangen.de/pesc:

- World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). Peace Education Standing Commission Research Report (PESC). Pilot Phase. Revised Version Nuremberg 1998. 

- World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). Peace Education Standing Commission Research Report (PESC). Report on Commission Development and Outcomes 1998/99, Nuremberg 1999.
- PESC Basic Paper: Educational Challenges and Chances for WCRP(submitted at the 7th WCRP World Assembly Amman/Jordan November 1999), Nuremberg 2000.
The PESC-team under the direction of Prof Dr Johannes Laehnemann currently consists of Mag. theol. Peter-Johannes Athmann, Dr Yahya Hassan Bajwa, Patrick Bartsch M.A., Dr Hansjoerg Biener, Jutta Mueller, Christian Schaefer M.A. and Hans van Willenswaardt. A new contact is Jonathan Kriener working towards his MA-degree at Bochum-University on the mutual perceptions of Israelis and Palestinans. With funds provided by WCRP New York, in November 2000 the Peace Education Standing Commission was able to employ a part time commission co-ordinator. Working closely with Peter Athmann, assistant at the chair, Dr Hansjoerg Biener redesigned the PESC web site for a re-launch in January 2001.
The major event in the work of the Nuremberg Peace Education Standing Commission in 2000 was the (VII.) Nuremberg Forum on Spirituality and Ethical Education: Heritage and Challenge of Religions. More than 50 experts in the field of theology, religious science, pedagogical science, and other humanities from four continents met from 25 to 29 September 2000 at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. There were contributions from different religious traditions concerning the political and economic contexts of the religious and pedagogical concepts. A congress volume in German is currently prepared at the chair. Nonetheless this publication features a number of papers in English with special relevance to the work of the Peace Education Standing Commission.

 
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PESC Area 1: Religious and
inter-religious education

 
1.1 Fundamental Problems
We are confronted with two fundamental problems: There is nearly no war, civil war or conflict without religious and/or ideological implications. There is a widespread loss of orientation concerning the central meaning of life and concerning ethical values in many social, political and individual situations.
At the 2000 Nuremberg Forum Dr Cemal Tosun (Ankara/Turkey) reported on the state of affairs in former Soviet Central Asia. Although religious affiliations mostly go after ethnic lines adherence to a faith very often is nominal and knowledge of the faith is small. Dr Tosun mentioned that in many areas a Muslim adhering to the regular prayers is already regarded as a Wahabite (fundamentalist). This is all the more important as some Central Asian republics restrict religious freedom because of their fight against “fundamentalist” insurgents. Although religion is only one aspect of conflicts religious feelings can very easily be abused for fanatic ideas, especially if there is no fundamental knowledge in matters of one´s own religious tradition as a “system of responsibility” and if there are misconceptions about other beliefs and world views. A distinction should be made between Religions as authentic faiths providing meaning of life and leading to morality, and the abuse of Religions as a vehicle of intolerance and hatred.
1.2 Challenges and Tasks for Religions
Challenges and tasks for Religions in this respect are at first to vitalise their own principles of belief in a way which opposes exclusivism and intolerance. The background for the educational task in this field is an inner renewal of the religious denominations themselves. The driving force for this renewal lies in the central experiences of each religion.

It is essential for Religious/Ethical education to assume the task of familiarising adolescents with their respective faiths as a “system of responsibility”. When people feel at home in their own faith and when they are familiar with the roots of their own religion and culture, they can provide the basis for a serious dialogue.

At the same time all Religious/Ethical Education should be accompanied by a new way of encounter which respects people of other faiths and their values and ways of life. Adolescents should be prepared for a way of living together without the burden of barriers caused by prejudice, but rather in listening to and learning from one another, which opens up new horizons to all sides.

This way of overcoming prejudice and barriers is an essential contribution to education for peace which can be made uniquely by religions and world-views:

Trust will grow in dialogue only when the dialogue partners can perceive that they are not being forced into a dogmatic scenario which does not correspond to one another’s understanding of his or her faith. This means that dialogue partners must try to learn about the various faiths from the others perspective and must search sensitively for the understanding in the religious traditions and writings of the partner. They must respect differences and try to understand the reasons for them.

1.3 Possibilities and Demands

To achieve this it is indispensable to promote co-operation in the fields of both Theology and Religious/Ethical Education at all levels:

Encourage contact and Co-operation between theologians and religious teachers from the different religions;

Improve the training of religious teachers and the clergy in the knowledge of other religions and world-views and the ethical principles - permitting each side to present its identity; methods should be designed to help teachers and students

to put themselves empathetically into the place of the other in the attempt to understand matters that seem unfamiliar in the religion of the other,
to deal with human frailty in each religion,
to deal with critical questions posed by outsiders;
Review and revise guidelines, syllabuses, textbooks and other educational material, especially regarding their presentation of other religions and world-views. In countries where world religions are not part of the syllabus, it is important to establish a basis for their incorporation into the curriculum, preferably as a separate subject.
Develop and produce relevant material for the media which at the same time is accessible in the Internet.
Provide guidelines for Religious/Ethical Education in the family.
1.4 Examples of Good Practice

The 1998 Report features details of the Cologne Textbook Project and the Political development programme of the Institute for Comparative Religion in South Africa.

Taking up the aims and principles of The Cologne textbook research on “Islam in German textbooks” (Prof. A. Falaturi and Prof. U. Tworuschka) – Professor Dr. Johannes Laehnemann at the Nuremberg chair started the project “The representation if Christianity in textbooks of Islamic countries” in 1999. It is now undertaken as a joint project with the Department of History of Religions – Religion and Society at the University of Rostock under the direction of Prof. Dr. Klaus Hock (member of PESC advisory council). The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Association) is funding the project until 2003. A short introduction was given by Christian Schaefer in the 1999 report. Information on the current state is included in this publication.

In the 1999 publications reference was also made to the Standing Advisory Committees on Religious Education (SACRES) in the counties of England gathering representatives of different religious communities, of teachers, school administration and parents. They are examining the syllabuses, the text books and other teaching material, discussing problems (for example ways of school worship in a multi-religious context) and giving ideas and inspirations for encounters in school life. Especially in England with its relatively long tradition of multi-religious education important research has been carried out in this field, and valuable educational material has been developed for teaching about other religions than one’s own.

The PESC-paper submitted at Amman in November 1999 also cited the educational curriculum promoting communication between Israelis and Palestinians: “Living in the Holy Land: Respecting Differences”. With the start of Al Akza Intifada in October 2000 many peace initiatives seem to have come to a standstill but the project “Living in the Holy Land - Respecting Differences” is continuing. Update information of November 2000 is included in this publication.


 
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PESC Area 2: Education towards violence free communication and conflict solution

 
2.1 Fundamental Problems
The special problem for religious/ethical education in this field is presented by the rise in ethnic-cum-religious fanaticism on the one hand, by ethical-cum-religious social disorientation on the other hand. Both can result in violence, in civil wars, ethnical conflicts and criminality - and fanaticism very often is just the reverse of relativism.
Ethnic cum religious fanaticism is not only found in regions where we have a long history of tensions - like in the Middle East, on the Indian subcontinent or in Northern Ireland, but also in regions where different cultures and religions for a long period had lived together without open conflict - like in Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia. What the believers of one faith knew or thought about other religions and confessions was not enough in situations of tension to let them show consideration in their actions for the religious sensibilities of members of other faiths.
Ethical-cum-religious social disorientation is a global phenomenon - especially in the high developed industrialised countries - and denotes a loss of values combined with a selfish and uncritical conforming to the ideals of consumerism. All these manifestations deprive people of the maturity of judgement to perceive the world in a complex and responsible way. They thus present a crucial obstacle in solving the question of the survival of humanity, and realising the goals of justice, peace and integrity of creation.

2.2 Challenges and Tasks for Religions

The central challenge in this field is that young people will only be equipped for living together in a way that will lead to Shalom/Salaam/Peace if they respect their fellow human beings, feel responsibility for all the living and inanimate world of

creation, are sensitive to hatred, violence and all developments that threatens life and community.

There is also the phenomenon that the religious dimension very often is excluded or marginalised. Many educators come from a secular point of view, and even when they are religiously motivated they are very sceptical about religious topics. “Religion” seems to be a sensitive word which bears negative connotations.

In Israel/Palestine as well as in other regions of the World the positive motivations of religions for conflict prevention, conflict solution and for reconciliation processes play a too little role.

2.3 Possibilities and Demands

The main demands in this field of Peace Education are:

better networking between the projects and initiatives, exchanging visions, concepts, methodical strategies and experiences - in an educational preventive way as well as in overcoming actual enmities and in reconciliation after conflicts. In situations like in the former Yugoslavia where the actual hurts on each side are so deep that it is very difficult to have visions and find ways of dialogue and encounter it will be helpful to learn from successful initiatives and projects in other countries – as for example in Israel/Palestine or in South Africa;

the possibilities of spiritual motivation and spiritual training for conflict situations, for non-violent action and for conflict solution have to be developed. This area of Peace Education has many chances as the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King have shown. Alternative actions in situations of tensions, violence and prejudices need a deep motivation and vision which comes from a deeper basis than just from the good will of some persons.

to develop research in analysing and reflecting structures of fanaticism and fundamentalism as well as in describing and evaluating strategies and methods of encounter, overcoming wrong prejudices and dialogue.

2.4 Examples of Good Practice

The 1998 PESC-Report featured details of the village and peace school of Neve Shalom/Wahat as Salam and a Swiss research project about the influence of spiritual/religious experiences on conflict situations. Since 1998/99 members of the PESC-team have been looking at the situation in Israel/Palestine. There are many projects who face the problems of coming together, of meeting people, of training alternative points of view. In spite of the current tensions in the Middle East many peace groups hold out. The peace Village Neve Shalom/Wahat as Salaam has not been able to change the whole structures of prejudices and enmity; but it has helped to develop a new consciousness and to build “isles” of groups and places where the traditional borders have been overcome. Networking is already done by the Inter-religious Co-ordinating Council in Israel (I.C.C.I.).

There are still far too few examples of research in the field of the interrelations between structures of faiths/religious convictions and conflict on the one hand, reconciliation on the other hand. In the not too distant future the theological dissertation of PESC-member Jutta Mueller will help to fill this gap.

On the International level the Peace Education Commission (PEC) of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) is a forum for contacts between peace groups. Through its web site the Peace Education Standing Commission will complement efforts for its special field of religious Peace Education. In some cases long established personal contacts provide personal knowledge of the institutions and projects featured on the web site. In other cases where there is no personal first hand acquaintance the PESC-site is giving them the opportunity to put their information for two months into a special part of the web site. This is like a wallpaper for discussion, contact and exchange without PESC being liable. Nonetheless, like the field needs constant monitoring this effort on the web site needs continuity.

The re-launch of the PESC-site as well as a German e-group on Friedenserziehung (peace education) comes just before the official launch of the WCC-Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) on 4 February 2001. The Decade merges the ideas of the Decade of Solidarity with Women and the peace to the city campaign. It is a call to the churches and ecumenical partners to overcome all forms of violence and continues the World Council of Churches’ engagement with the issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation, while exploring the purpose of Christian unity. It is also a declaration of the churches’ readiness to work together with local communities, secular movements, and people of other faiths everywhere to build a culture of peace. A report on the Steps against Violence/Peace to the City programme in Braunschweig is included in this publication.


 
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PESC Area 3: Environmental education and education for socio-economic development

 
3.1 Fundamental Problems
Religions nowadays share in the two major problems in the field of ecology and economy: the exploitation of our planet and an unjust economic order. These problems are interrelated with specific value systems: exploitation corresponds to consumerism; social injustice corresponds to selfish forms of capitalism. Of course there are also other reasons for the exploitation and for poverty in many regions - as for example the growth of population, lack of natural resources, lack of schooling and knowledge. But as the secular value systems mentioned are of a quasi religious character the value systems of the Religions are challenged in a specific way.
The declaration on “A Global Ethic” of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (Chicago 1993) summarises the problems:
“Today we possess sufficient economic, cultural, and spiritual resources to introduce a better global order, but old and new ethnic, national, social, economic, and religious tensions threaten the peaceful building of a better world. We have experienced greater technological progress than ever before, yet we see that world-wide poverty, hunger, death of children, unemployment, misery, and the destruction of nature have not diminished but rather have increased. Many peoples are threatened with economic ruin, social disarray, political marginalization, ecological catastrophe, and moral collapse.”

The educational efforts of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (president: Prof. Hans Kueng, member of PESC-advisory council) shows that there are many pedagogical ways to develop ecological sensibility already in Elementary and Primary Education. 

3.2 Challenges and Tasks for Religions

The main challenge for Religions in this field is that we need a new coalition of religious motivations and inter-religious co-operation to preserve life and to share the wealth of the World. We also need an education which makes young people sensitive for the sources and the beauty of life, for solidarity with those who suffer - against the laws of unlimited profit and selfish use of the natural resources we live from.

Religious thinking is used to thinking long terms - not just in the limits of one generation or the time between two elections. So religions can be critical and constructive partners to politics. They have to learn that the eternal background they are used to think from should urge them to reflect and take up their responsibility in this present world. Therefore education for solidarity with all existing beings is a necessary preventive task to avoid social conflict and violence. It is therefore closely related to the efforts in Area 2 (Education towards violence free communication and conflict solution).

3.3 Possibilities and Demands

The recommendations in this field derive from the insight that we need a new and intensified cross-cultural and cross-religious consciousness in environmental as well as in socio-economic matters. 

Religions should take all possibilities to strengthen environmental and socio-economic elements in formal education - and take the opportunity to integrate it in the syllabuses where they are present with an own subject in schools - in close co-operation with the educational authorities and also with secular initiatives in this field.

Still more possibilities for religions are to be found in informal education - in projects, groups, camps and in long lasting strategies. It will be essential that the religions give opportunities to experience sensibility and solidarity in communion. They should build “Isles” of alternative living which can help to build up the consciousness for a wider range of society. They should communicate their spiritual visions. The single religious traditions can newly be interpreted and widened in the horizon of central convictions of solidarity in other religions.

There should be developed a fruitful co-operation of WCRP with the educational efforts of “green” movements in the single religions as well as in the secular field - and also with alternative economic projects. As most of the present societies have become multicultural and multi-religious the inter-religious perspective can lead to a better coalition in these questions.

3.4 Examples of Good Practice

The 1998 Report features details of the Sarvodaya Movement of A.T. Ariyaratne in Sri Lanka and the Alternatives to Consumerism-Project, initiated by Sulak Sivaraksa in Thailand and other South East Asian countries. These examples show very clearly that spiritual motivations, ecological insights and alternative economy can closely come together. Both leaders were guests at the 7th Nuremberg forum and their talks are included in this publication. It might seem significant that the projects described in our Pilot Phase report mainly come from a Buddhist and indigenous background - being at the same time open for inter-religious inspirations. But it should be kept in mind that in the “Conciliar Process” the Christian Churches are striving for “Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation”, and that they are beginning to integrate the inter-religious dialogue in their work.


 
 
The PESC team is advised and supported by high-ranking international experts representing the different religious traditions of the world:
 
Steering Committee
The Steering Committee is the supervising board of PESC which shall assemble at international meetings like e.g. the WCRP World Assemblies.
Prof Dr Johannes Lähnemann, Germany (chair)
Dr Kezevinu Aram, India
Dr Patrice Brodeur, Canada
Prof Dr Richard Friedli, Switzerland
Dr Günther Gebhardt, Germany
Dr Byung-Hun Ko, South Korea
Dr Shaikh Abdul Mabud, United Kingdom
Prof Dr Karl Ernst Nipkow, Germany
Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand
Dr John Taylor, United Kingdom/Switzerland
ex officio:
Rev. James Cairns, WCRP Intl.
Advisory Council
The Advisory Council is meant to be a group of consultants; its members are being informed in regular intervals about the progress of PESC. They provide advice and suggestions to the PESC staff.
Enang Ajang Aloysius, Cameroon
Prof Dr Khairallah Assar, Algeria
Prof Dr Mualla Selcuk, Turkey
Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, Zimbabwe
Dr Werner Haußmann, Germany
Prof Dr Klaus Hock, Germany
Prof Dr John Hull, United Kingdom
Prof Dr Yoshiaki Iisaka, Japan
Prof Dr Norbert Klaes, Germany
Dr Ron Kronish, Israel
Prof Dr Hans Küng, Germany
Prof Dr Gordon Mitchell, South Africa/Germany
Lisa Palmieri, Italy
Viola Raheb M.A., Palestine
Rabbi Prof Dr David Rosen, Israel
Jacqueline Rougé, France
Mariza Salazar, Costa Rica
Marina Shishova, Russia
 
[1] World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). Peace Education Standing Commission Research Report (PESC). Pilot Phase. Revised Version Nuernberg 1998.