Education towards violence free communication and conflict solution
Yolande Iliano-Duponchel (WCRP Belgium): “Drums for Peace”
|For centuries drums have
been used to drum up for war and to drown the feelings of anxiety, the
cries of the wounded and the dying. More recently drumming up for war is
used in figurative speech for the dangerous rhetoric politicians consciously
or unconsciously use.
And although drums are no more used in actual combat protesters have used them to make themselves heard by noise or silencing speakers they would not like. More recently children reverted to the use of drums to drum up for peace, and members of WCRP Belgium have been instrumental in making it a mass movement and introducing more pedagogical effects into it.
An Idea for the International Day of Childhood Poetry
Belgian Children as Tambours pour la Paix
The 2002 Theme: Child Soldiers
The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Belgium) is an organisation affiliated to WCRP/International and sharing the same concern in the context of Belgian society. WCRP/Belgium identifies shared commitments among religious communities in Belgium and tries to gather their representatives operating on the conviction that multi-religious co-operation and common action can be powerful instruments in the quest for peace and justice. The first important activity for the Belgian Chapter was the collaboration for the WCRP World Assembly held in Leuven in 1974. While supporting the work of WCRP/International on a global level, WCRP/Belgium has also its own projects on the local level. For the decade since 1992, WCRP/Belgium is mainly working in Peace Education among and with children, with an emphasis on religious and racial tolerance.
Idea for the International Day of Childhood Poetry
The project started with a proposal for the International Day of Childhood Poetry 2000. This day has in Europe been celebrated on 21 March of each year since 1984 and is today also promoted world wide by UNICEF and UNESCO. On this day, primary school children all over the world are asked to gather from 11:30 to 12:00 h local time expressing themselves in poems and other cultural activities.
Relating to International Year for the Culture of Peace in 2000 and the UN decade to promote a culture of peace for the benefit of the children, it was suggested that children
1) think about the three words peace, war and drums
2) illustrate their thoughts with pictures and write poems
3) organise meetings and present their pictures and poems in public.
Children as Tambours pour la Paix
Under the co-ordination of Yolande Iliano, teacher and leading member of WCRP Belgium, children of the Brussels' school, St. Joseph Uccle, used the opportunity to think about peace - tolerance - friendship and worked out a programme for the children of other schools and other religions, to become responsible citizens. They contacted all schools of the district reaching about 10.000 children of all types of schools (private, public, catholic, special education...) and inviting them to participate in this activity. They even sent e-mails to schools in England, Holland and other countries to invite children to participate in the project. They contacted officials at different power levels and organised together with children coming from different schools the peace march and 2 big meetings on the 21 of March with about 2000 children each. All in all the children were the promoters of 22 different actions, beside the core of the action working for example on the creation of a web site and doing public relations with the media.
In 2000, there were 14.983 Tambours pour la Paix in 42 places in the French-speaking part of Belgium, in 2001, the number has grown to 20.341 drummers for peace in 84 places in Belgium alone. As already mentioned children in other countries are also taking up the movement. According to figures provided by WCRP Belgium, on 21 of March 2000 about 32,480 children in Europe and in Africa have used the drums to call for peace. WCRP Belgium produced a CD-ROM documenting the effort. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2002 Theme: Child Soldiers
The theme for 21 March 2002 is “child soldiers”. According to UN statistics some 300000 children in 35 countries are participating in military action. The theme easily relates to children when they are thinking about what they enjoy in life and what they would miss if being pressed into war action, even when you do not tell them all the atrocities adults know about. E.g. sending the kids into mine fields or using girls as sex slaves. According to UN estimates some two million children have died in military conflicts of the past decade and some six million have been crippled for life. On 25 May 2000 96 countries signed a UN protocol against the abuse of children as soldiers. It prohibits the participation or recruitment of youth (under 18) for regular military service or militias. But it took more than one-and-a-half year to have ten countries ratify the protocol and thus make it binding.
In preparation of the 2002 Day of Childhood Poetry, WCRP Belgium was able to distribute CDs among all French speaking primary schools in Belgium as well as send some CDs to partners abroad. The ministry of education sent out a letter encouraging schools to participate at the Day of Childhood Poetry along the example set by Yolande Iliano. In order to increase interest, the president of WCRP Belgium accepted invitations to present the project at educational conferences in January and March 2002. Articles have appeared in several magazines, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim.
Drawing on the experience of many gatherings, the organisers have drawn up a paper with proposals and hints as well as suggested letters to schools, political leaders and the media. Some advice from the French only paper might serve as examples:
The Drums for Peace rally is supposed not only to be a noisy demonstration like adults do sometimes using drums and whistles. Its roots are in an cultural event. So the half hour demonstration for peace should be staged accordingly.
The Drums for Peace rally wants to reach beyond being just another school activity. This implies gathering in a public place, inviting local leaders and local media rather than staging a school yard event.
Although the advice of adults will always be needed, it is important that the children remain in control. When drumming for peace they should not be instruments themselves. This implies a democratic process of opinion building and decision making whether and how to participate. It implies children using their own imagination when thinking about the topic and following their own strategies when organising the gathering.
Looking at the media coverage so far, it is strongly advised to inform media representatives as clearly as possible about the intentions and explicitly ask them to make the childrens’ voices heard.
The potential of the Drums for Peace action is in the integration of many young participants, each according to his or her own abilities: organising, doing public relations work, creating a local homepage advertising the event and reporting about it, building and decorating the platform, reading a poem, participating in a school choir... Although the event plays on the symbolism of drums for war or peace, it is more than symbolic action. From an educators' perspective it does carry along some additional value beside awareness of the peace issue and solidarity with child soldiers: offering an opportunity to combine mind, heart and hand in staging the event, challenging both cultural and organisational skills, providing young people with a platform to make themselves heard and recognised