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Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC)

 
World Conference on Religion and Peace
Weltkonferenz der Religionen für den Frieden
Report 2013
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Peace Education Standing Commission c/o Prof. (em.)  Dr. Johannes Lähnemann, Lehrstuhl Evangelische Religionspädagogik der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
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IX. World Assembly, Vienna, 20th-22nd November 2013

Welcoming the Other through Religious and Multi-Religious Education

Commission Report

 

The following report is based on the proposal developed for the Commission (unanimously approved by the participants) with added summaries of papers presented in the sessions and topics raised during the discussion.

The commission met three times under the headings
i) Analysis of problems/challenges/related needed roles,
ii) Interventions/religious specific assets/examples of best practice,
iii) Recommendations for multi-religious actions.

The sessions were moderated by H.E. Dr. Mohammedal-Sammak, Secretary General, Islamic Christian National Dialogue Committee (1st session), H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel, Director, Patriarchate Liaison Office of the European Union (2nd session) and Mr. Lawrence Chong, RfP Asia & the Pacific interfaith Youth Network, Singapore (3rd session).

The commission was facilitated by Prof. Dr. Johannes Lähnemann, Chairman, Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC) of RfP and Prof. Dr. Patrice Brodeur, director of research/KAICIID (also serving as rapporteur)

 

 

INTRODUCTION

When tensions between religious and ethnic groups escalate to violence, the lack of knowledge and of a welcoming atmosphere combined with long-lasting prejudices lead some groups to fanaticize. It is one of the primary tenets of the Peace Education Standing Commission of Religions for Peace that education can break down such ignorance and prejudices, and, in so doing, counter animosities and enmities between different cultural and religious groups.

Religious education can do even more – as it offers assistance and direction to people seeking direc­tion in their lives, helping them in their lives and helping them in their actions.

Helping people find direction. Religious education plays an essential part in cognitive learning. When people are well informed, use their knowledge critically and are able to question and analyze, they are less likely to be deceived. Pure ignorance, deliberate distortion and disinformation are all too often the stuff of politics today and, even in matters of religion, are used to create barriers and for defamatory purposes. When people understand the ways in which religious faiths relate to life and meaning, they are able to empathize with others' views and see through the mechanisms that cause ethnic and religious discord and fanaticism.

Helping people in their lives. Religious education teaches about the sources of life and of values that transcend superficial pleasures. It teaches how all living things are related and mutually interdepend­ent. Religious education can give strength, support, comfort and courage.

Helping people in their actions. Religious communities can offer examples of living together in soli­darity, living for one another, speaking up for the weak and disadvantaged – teaching us to cope with the problems of life with a sense of mutual responsibility.

 

I. CHALLENGES

The task that emerges for education requires the commitment of the religious communities in coop­eration with all people of good will. Young people will only be equipped for living together in a way that will ensure the continued existence of our planet if they respect their fellow human beings, feel responsibility for all the living as well as the inanimate world.

In the field of religious education three ways of learning can be distinguished.97

1.      Learning religion means to be educated and socialized in one particular religious tradition. This is the way of catechesis mainly carried out within the religious communities.

2.      Learning about religion means to receive knowledge about religions in a neutral way. This would be the main task within public education.

3.      Learning from religion means that interaction with religions can help the development of per­sonal orientation and identity-building. This is relevant for education in religious communities as well as in public education. Religious education in religious communities has to take into account the pluralistic and often secularised contexts of the learners, and religious education in public schooling should provide an encounter with religions vis-a-vis living communities, rather than with neutral facts.

 

CONTEXTUAL CONDITIONS

The concrete contextual conditions for inter-religious and values education vary from country to country.

         Some countries maintain a highly developed infrastructure where religious education and values education have a continuous history. This is exhibited in syllabus development, the production of textbooks and teaching materials and in university-level teacher training.

         There are other countries where religious education is very weak. Teaching materials and syllabi are few or do not exist at all, and teachers have little or no opportunity to gain the necessary skills.

         In the majority of countries, religious communities carry more responsibility for religious educa­tion than does the state. There are countries where religious communities and the state cooperate on issues of religious education, which can be fruitful. However, in some cases there is almost no control of the contents, aims and methods by state or independent pedagogical institutions.

         Inter-religious cooperation concerning religious education in public schooling and also in the ped­agogy of the religious communities themselves is still very rare. This is a crucial point for coun­tries that still have segregated societies. However, in countries without tensions between religious groups, inter-religious cooperation concerning the presentation of different religions in textbooks and syllabi is mostly undeveloped.

         There are still few examples of direct encounters with the various world religions in the pedagogical field, which could include, for example, visits to places of worship as part of outdoor schooling. Additionally, there is little recognition of the rich cultural heritage and influence of religious tradi­tions in different parts of the world.Historical conflicts between and among religious communities should also be taught and discussed.

         Research examining students identity development, as well as their religious and philosophical interests and questions, in a pluralistic society is just in the beginning stages and in only a few countries.

 

         There are too few examples of learning on a neighborhood level, which could include religious education in schools, but also in cooperation between schools and religious communities.

 

Further challenges have been identified in the KAICIID project “The Image of the Other”[1]:

         There are helpful recommendations by UNESCO and other educational bodies, but they are only available in a limited number of languages and are not sufficiently disseminated or used.

         Several organizations currently working on intercultural and inter-religious education have a long-term commitment to working on perceptions of the other. However, not enough research and im­pact studies have been done to evaluate such initiatives or make them accessible to policy makers. There are far too little empirical studies concerning the convictions and interests of young people as relates to values, religions and world views.

         There are many recommendations on an international level, but implementation is lacking, pri­marily due to weak commitment at national levels. There is no network for sustained dialogue between the multiple stakeholders in the field of intercultural and inter-religious education.

         The educational realities in the different regions of the world and also within each region are very diverse, requiring multiple strategies and interventions to make changes effective.

         Currently, all stakeholders face the challenge of too little exchange and cooperation.

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR COLLABORATIVE ACTION

         Governments and their cultural authorities are asked to open their educational systems to basic religious and inter-religious learning.

         Universities and educational institutions are asked for input on holistic approaches for values and tolerance education that includes religious and inter-religious elements.

         Intergovernmental organizations are asked if they are able and willing to commit to a new approach to intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.

         Religious communities are asked what they can do to assist in the development of new models for open and welcoming encounters between and among religious and cultural groups.

         All stakeholders are asked for improving exchange and cooperation.

 

 

Contributions and discussion in Session 1:

The basic insights shared by all participants were twofold:

1) Young people as well as adults live in a plural World everywhere

2) Young people as well as adults live in a global World everywhere

 

Migration, traveling, media make it increasingly impossible to live without taking “The Other” into account. However, it is all too evident how many countries give children, especially girls, no proper access to learning and education. And at the same time there are too many cases where a one sided schooling is predominant – and a black-and-white view of “the Other” is promoted.

This is a double challenge for the religions and their educational efforts as well as for public educational policies: to promote ways of learning which provide children and young people with the skills that are important for their lives – and to train them for a welcoming acceptance of the Other and of plurality on the whole.

In her paper, Dr. Fatemeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, Secretary General, Women’s Solidarity Association of Iran, pointed it out, when she explained: “Reaching a unique world-wide discourse shared among different religious practitioners is the main element based on which the religious and interreligious education can proceed and succeed with the ultimate goal of peace, fairness, and security.” 

Matthew Hodes, Director, United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, touched a sore point when he gave examples of the horrible practice of religious fanatics to prevent girls from going to school. He also observed tendencies of stressing exclusivity and superiority in religious teaching in many places. All too often, the right balance between teaching religion and teaching about religion is not yet found.

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General, World Evangelical Alliance, representing 600 billion Christians worldwide, pointed out that the educational way of welcoming the Other needs the context of social work for justice. He informed about the Micah network to mobilize Christians against poverty. The campaign aims to deepen Christian engagement with impoverished and marginalized communities, and to influence leaders of rich and poor countries to fulfill their promise to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Prof. Dr. Patrice Brodeur, director of research/KAICIID, explained that the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue – as a result of the program “The Image of the Other” – faces the need of a new Global Network on religious and interreligious education which is transnational and brings together politicians, religious scientific experts and representatives of religions in various contexts in order to aim at a transrecord of results. 

Dr. Jaime Carril, General Secretary, Good Life Corporation, Latin American religious Network on Peace Education (RILEP), pointed out how important it is to analyze the political, social, religious and educational framework in a specific region in order to explore the ways of exchange and improvement.  The RILEP work is described below in more detail.

In the DEBATE it became evident that initiatives for “welcoming the Other” in education need initiatives on the global as well as on the regional, national and local level – that “Think globally, act locally” is the challenge in order to cope with the needs for the future generations – and that many of the political and religious stakeholders in this field are not yet ready to recognize properly these needs.

 

II. INTERVENTIONS AND BEST PRACTICES

When working towards “Welcoming the Other” we should draw on the spiritual, ethical and social potential of religious communities. Religions are concerned with giving meaning to life, interpreting the world, and are not only focused on short-term goals.

Being committed to non-violence and respect for life, to solidarity and a just economic order, to tol­erance and a life of truthfulness and to equal rights and partnership between men and women (according to the 4 irrevocable directives of the Declaration toward a Global Ethic) – these convictions are common in different religious traditions (and still often wait for realisation in the religious communities themselves).This means that religions have unique “treasures” to contribute to society that they could use in cooperation with one another and with all “people of good will”, rather than viewing other religious communities and world views as enemies or competitors. The fact that most religions are not nationally bound but are manifested through worldwide communities – as “global players” on the one hand and as advocates of the different contexts and cultures they live in on the other – should be seen as an advantage.

Tasks for religious communities in this respect are first to vitalize their own principles of belief in an open way that opposes intolerance. It is essential for religious/ethical education to assume the task of familiarizing adolescents with their respective faiths as "systems 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 approach to en­gagement that respects people of other faiths and their values and ways of life. Adolescents should be prepared for ways of living together without the burden of prejudicial barriers, in an environment conducive to listening to and learning from one another, opening up new horizons to all sides. This way of overcoming prejudicial barriers is an essential contribution to peace education, which is often a task taken on by religious communities.

It is important to recognize that prejudices towards others are founded in preconceived opinions. Trust will grow in dialogue only when dialogue partners can perceive that they are not being forced into a dogmatic scenario that does not correspond to one another's understanding of his or her faith. This means that dialogue partners must try to learn about the other’s faith from the other’s perspective and, with sensitivity, seek out understanding through the religious traditions and writings of the part­ner. Each dialogue partner must respect the differences between them. Consequently, there is a great need to develop and strengthen religious and inter-religious learning in formal, as well as informal, education.

Some selected projects are described below in order to show the wide range of religious education initiatives already existing, but that, until now, have not been bound into an overall network. The pro­jects presented cover different levels of engagement, dialogue and learning, and may help to systemize the efforts for “Welcoming the Other” through: 1) the development of teaching materials focused on religions and ethical values; 2) study programs for cross-cultural learning; 3) scientific studies per­taining to the field of textbook and media research and development; 4) dialogue groups focusing on Holy Scriptures, spiritual sources and inter-religious commitments within religious traditions; 5) youth seminars and exchanges in situations of religious-ethnic tensions; 6) initiatives of religious com­munities in cooperation with public institutions as for example city agencies, schools and academic institutions; and 7) building up regional inter-religious networks on Peace Education.

THE INTER-RELIGIOUS EDUCATIONAL WORK OF THE GLOBAL ETHIC FOUNDATION TÜBINGEN/GERMANY

The Global Ethic Project, initiated by ProfessorHans Küng, promotes a positive vision in contrast to Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis.

In consequence, the Global Ethic Foundation wants to provide an impetus for people to rethink and – starting, if possible, with children and adolescents – promote a change of attitude. The intention is

   To awaken people’s interest in other cultures;

   To communicate knowledge about their own, as well as foreign, cultures and values;

   To help break down prejudices so that it will be possible to meet in a critical but friendly atmosphere of mutual respect;

   To create awareness that, despite our different areas of life, we can agree on common values that will ensure peaceful coexistence.

From its inception, the Global Ethic Foundation has consistently attempted to make the substance of its work accessible to teachers and has developed pedagogical resources. The Global Ethic Foundation has offered courses and training sessions for teachers about the world’s religions, influencing syllabus development and textbook writing.(http:// www.weltethos.org)

INTER-RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING AND SOLIDARITY THROUGH CROSS-CULTURAL EDUCATION

The Adyan Foundation (Beirut/Lebanon: led by Prof. Dr .Fadi Daou and Dr.Nayla Tabbar; http://www. adyanvillage. net­) provides courses, teaching and structured encounters of students and educators to:

         Raise awareness on the grassroots level (Youth, CSO, FBO, etc.) on religious pluralism, geopol­itics of religions and interfaith relations;

         Introduce education on inclusive citizenship for religious diversity and coexistence into the national educational policies and programs for schools;

         Empower teachers, trainers, youth leaders and policy makers in religious pluralism, multifaith education and inclusive citizenship;

         Foster cross-cultural Arab-West dialogue and mutual understanding.

 

Develop and expand interfaith networks and spiritual solidarity

In partnership with Tischner European University (Poland), Gregorian University (Italy), Notre Dame University (Lebanon) and Ahram Canadian University (Egypt), Adyan developed and implemented in 2010/2011 its first e-course on “Diversity and intercultural dialogue”, gathering 18 students and three teachers from the above-mentioned universities.The students developed, in Euro-Arab and Christian-Muslim groups, four projects that they were invited to present in an international confer­ence on intercultural education and peace-building in Italy.

In partnership with Vienna University (Austria), Cairo University (Egypt) and Notre Dame University (Lebanon), Adyan developed in the fall 2012/2013 its second e-course entitled “Religious minorities and public life in Europe and the Arab World”.

Using the same methodology of cross-cultural education on religious diversity, interfaith relations and public life, Adyan then developed a formation program that targets young professionals, with the goal of turning them into “Leaders for Interreligious Understanding” (LIU).The LIU program gathered four CSO partners from Egypt (CEOSS), Lebanon and Syria (FDCD), and Denmark (Danmission) as well as Adyan. Thirty-one young professionals from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Denmark, and from a variety of professional backgrounds (i.e., politics, religion, media, CSO, education) graduated from the first program with the certificate of “Leader for inter-religious understanding”.

The young leaders then designed and implemented activities for their own professional networks to provide understanding among people from different religious backgrounds.

INTER-RELIGIOUS TEXTBOOK DEVELOPMENT – PERSPECTIVES FROM THE RESEARCH PROJECT “THE REPRESENTATION OF CHRISTIANITY IN TEXTBOOKS OF COUNTRIES WITH AN ISLAMIC TRADITION” (led by Klaus Hock, Johannes Lähnemann and Wolfram Reiss)

The textbook presents the different religions that can help students achieve fundamental knowledge and an attitude of “Welcoming the Other.”

A specific goal of the project has been to systemize findings in a way that can be transposed to inter-re­ligious textbook development. Consequently, a consultation process was initiated with colleagues from Austria, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iran, Jordan, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey. A proposal for inter-religious textbook development was designed and, at a symposium during the Xth Nuremberg Forum (2010), elaborated in detail – as possible guidelines for authors and publishers, for education authorities and curriculum planners– standards showing how inter-religious issues should be handled in curriculum and textbook design, including:

         Portraying the religions in an authentic, professionally sound way;

         Developing a dialogue-orientated interpretation of religion and belief;

         Portraying the religions and their importance in the lives of real people;

         Conveying a differentiated view of history;

         Taking account of the cultural heritage and contextuality of the religious communities;

         Dealing openly with the topical issues of mission, tolerance and inter-religious dialogue;

         Finding common ground in ethics;

         Considering the life conditions of the students and the relevance for religious learning;

         Portraying religions vividly and age-appropriately.

 

 J. Lähnemann: Interreligious Textbook Research and Development: A Proposal for Standards – In: M.L. Pirner/J. Lähnemann (Ed.): Media Power and Religions. The Challenge Facing Intercultural Dialogue and Learning. Frankfurt/M. 2013, p. 147-159.

It is important that the encounter with the world of religions is open in such a way that teachers, as well as students, are not forced to accept a specific religious viewpoint. The multiplicity of perspectives offered within the religious traditions, as well as the critical view from outside should be guaranteed to encourage vivid, enriching and critical learning.

 

OPEN DOORS / HOPEN DEUREN – a project of RfP Belgium (http://www.wcrp.be/100- portes-deuren-doors/index.htm), led by Mrs. Yolande Iliano – Co-founder, Coordinator.

The project is an example of informal learning, within the context of cooperation among city author­ities, schools and religious groups, based in the world of the child’s imagination and inspired by the idea of “doors” and the many physical and abstract associations this theme aroused in children of all social, cultural, and philosophical backgrounds.

The aim of this project is diversity education and contains the following elements:

         Leading to better knowledge of oneself;

         Looking at the diversity of interpretations, to discover the Other as different without value judgment or hierarchy;

         Educating for a culture of openness;

         Underlining the enrichment gained by diversity;

         Combating generalizations, categorizations, stereotypes, discrimination and any expression of same through violence;

         Encouraging action and universal commitment.

Activities start with observation and interpretation of five paintings. This leads children to begin to re­flect on and come to grips with self through art, as interpretation is the prime indicator of self-knowl­edge. The learning process then leads from a personal, individual view to a wider view of community, culminating in the universal. The project starts from a picture (and other activities) to encourage the discovery of the Other without value judgment or hierarchy and underlines the enrichment gained by diversity. Additionally, the project focuses on possible incentives of committing to peace as a universal citizen.

In Antwerp this project was set up with the enthusiastic cooperation of 600 pupils and their teachers from all types of schools, and not less than 15 cooperating groups and religious communities. This project idea and concept could easily be adopted by other countries and cities, especially where in­ter-religious groups or councils already exist.

THE “LATIN AMERICAN INTER-RELIGIOUS NETWORK ON PEACE EDUCATION” (RILEP – http://.erb.unaoc.org)

The “Latin American Inter-Religious Network on Peace Education” is an initiative of Religions for Peace Latin America and the Caribbean that gathers representatives from the main communities of faith in the region. The objectives of RILEP are:

         To promote peace education in religious communities, particularly in their educational frame­works, through mutual understanding and fraternity, overcoming all kinds of prejudices;

         To establish a permanent space of liaison for the purpose of facilitating inter-religious exchange and training of educators in issues of peace for Latin American religious communities; and

         To use information and communication technologies (ICT) to promote a culture of peace, from an interfaith and Latin American perspective.

 

The RILEP was established in 2004 by RfP Latin America and the Caribbean with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Since its founding, the RILEP has held four meetings of religious educational organizations in Latin America. The first was held in Santiago de Chile, on 16–17 November 2004, the second in Buenos Aires, on 14–15 December 2005, the third in Rio de Janeiro, on 12–16 September 2007, and the fourth in Montevideo, on 1–5 No­vember 2009.The latter two events were supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Vision.

RfP Latin America and the Caribbean and UNESCO are continuing to promote the RILEP as a key stakeholder for mobilizing a culture of peace within the religious education of Latin America. They are strengthening the National Groups of RILEP in Argentina, Brazil and Chile, to develop activities for students of different religious educational institutions, devoted to mutual understanding and joint social action, and based on solidarity and brotherhood.

EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES OF THE INTER-RELIGIOUS COORDINATING COUNCIL IN ISRAEL (http://www.icci.org.il) led by Rabbi Dr.Ron Kronish

The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), established in January 1991, is comprised of more than 60 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish institutions and organizations. ICCI also serves as the Israeli affiliate of RfP as one of the Israeli members of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ).

It is a great challenge to build bridges between Israeli and Palestinian people due to the existing phys­ical and mental barriers and hurts of past and present. With that in mind, the “Face to Face / Faith to Faith” project focuses on the development of youth leadership with the goal of promoting learning about the Other and recognizing the narratives and the experiences of the Other.

For the past 11 years, ICCI, in partnership with the Auburn Theological Seminary of New York and local groups in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the U.S.A., has offered a dialogue and leadership program for Jewish, Christian and Muslim youth. The program includes attending a two-week sum­mer intensive experience in the U.S., as part of a comprehensive year of dialogue and action projects in Jerusalem. Upon returning to the Middle East, the “Face to Face” participants engage in bi-monthly dialogue sessions, follow-up activities that focus on “getting to know the Other in Jerusalem,” and community service and leadership training. The program culminates with a project designed and led by the youth in order to bring the lessons they have learned back to their communities and to put their leadership skills into action. In order to affect more people, ICCI also facilitates a dialogue group for parents of “Face to Face/Faith to Faith” participants, works with the participants’ high schools, and maintains an active network of alumni who continue to work for peace and coexistence.

This year (2013), ICCI is embarking on a completely revised “Face to Face” program in the region, with youth leadership from East and West Jerusalem, which will have more impact on the community, following an intensive summer camp experience in Israel this summer.

“Palestinians and Israelis for Interreligious Dialogue and Action”, ICCI's Alumni Community for grad­uates of the youth and young adult programs, commenced its activities in 2011.There are now over 200 graduates of the youth and young adult programs of the last 12 years. The program aims to provide ICCI alumni with a long-term framework for engaging together in dialogue and social activism.

Other organizations, projects and initiatives with multi-religious education impact in the Holy Land and in the Middle East include:

         The educational work of the Peace Village Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam where Jewish and Pal­estinian Arab citizens of Israel Jews, Christians and Muslims live together (http://nswas.com).

         The Interfaith Encounter Association, consisting of 50 religiously mixed groups that regularly meet on both sides of the Green Line in Israel and Palestine (Director: Dr. Yehuda Stolov http:// interfaith-encounter.org).

         The Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem a Palestinian organization that furthers educa­tion, peace building and dialogue in the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron (Director: Fuad Giacaman http://www.aeicenter.org).

         The School Talitha Kumi in Beit Yala (http://www.talithakumi.org) and the Schneller Schools in Amman/Jordan and Khirbet Kanafar/Lebanon (http://www.schneller-school.org) in which Christian and Muslim students of all denominations are educated together, learn together and about each other and cooperate for the future of their countries.

 

OTHERS

There are many more projects that have a learning dimension and help in the promotion of “Welcom­ing the Other”. Many, but not all, of these projects offer examples of programs promoting common action for human rights, the ending of violence and protection of the environment. Below just a few examples:

         The Restoring Dignity project of RfPs Women of Faith network3 is an international initiative (with meetings, training, exhibitions, presentations and a vivid toolkit: http://religionsforpeace.org/ file/resources/toolkits/restoring-dignity-toolkit.pdf) working out what the worlds major faith traditions teach, each in its own way, about the inviolable dignity of the human being as rooted in the Sacred. While respecting religious differences, the Restoring Dignity pro­ject draws on the commitment and resources of faith congregations, institutions, communities and individual believers to bring an end to violence against women and girls.

 

         The Arms Down RfP Youth Campaign (http://armsdown.net)is gathering signatures to ask the United Nations to: 1.Abolish nuclear weapons, 2.Stop the spread and misuse of weapons, and 3.Use 10 percent of military budgets for the Millennium Development Goals.

 

         The Spirit in Education Movement (SEM) in Thailand, initiated by Sulak Sivaraksa, is an alter­native college founded in 1995.It offers a spiritually-based, ecologically-sound, holistic alternative to mainstream education. Its philosophy is rooted in Buddhist wisdom and a deep concern for eco­logical sustainability and social justice. The founders realize that mainstream education in South East Asia is not in tune with the realities of the changing world. Consequently, SEM has provided many courses promoting interaction between alternative thinkers of the West and the best-minded of Asia.

 

The projects summarized above teach us that educational activities need to be contextualized. The problems and challenges of each specific environment have to be analyzed, the framework of formal and informal educational possibilities has to be taken into account, and resources have to be carefully examined.

Contributions and discussion in Session 2:

The session began with an engaging keynote presentation of Dr. Vinu Aram, Director, Shanti Ashram, India, Vice Moderator, RfP.  – Shanti Ashram, founded of the late Dr. M. Aram, Vinu Aram’s father, together with his wife, Mrs. Minoti Aram, and his daughter, is an inspiring example of bringing Gandhian principles to practical action. The fundamental idea – Sarvodaya: Welfare for all – draws its strength from the spiritual sources of the best parts of Hindu tradition in openness for interreligious spiritual enrichment. Serving over 200.000 children, men and women from the most vulnerable sections of society, it demonstrates a complex religiously based learning process. There is a large number of single projects with the focus on rural development, Peace Leadership and health care which engage specifically women, youth and children. Shanti Ashram offers regular impact studies in cooperation with international and interreligious partners (as for example the Savodaya movement of Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne in Sri Lanka). Dr. Vinu Aram was accompanied by Mr. Parthipan Palanisamy, Youth Co-ordinator, RfP-IYC, and by Mr. Anand Karthikeyan, Youth Member, Shanti Ashram, who complemented the presentation of Dr. Aram enthusiastically from the young peoples perspectives.

Reverend Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Association, coming from one of the founder institutions of the World Conference on Religions and Peace, presented Interreligious Education resources of his religious community from the past and from the present. The example of a youth book on Mohammed as radical prophet and reformer (by Sarah Conuyci) shows a way of a cross cultural perspective which can be welcomed also by Muslim learners.

Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, Director,  Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), explained – in addition to the project description above – the Council’s Model for Interreligious dialogue in the service of peace as comprised of four major elements: 1) Personal interaction – getting to know each other as individual human beings, 2) Interreligious, text-based learning, 3) Discussing issues of the conflict, 4) Taking action, separately and together. Especially the 3rd element has proved as painful as well as necessary and meaningful. To learn about the fears and the hurts of the other side in the face or the own experience has led to deep mutual understanding of the other’s religious, cultural, and existential reality, even if it also delineates where people fundamentally do not – and often cannot – agree with the other.  

Mrs. Ravinder Kaur Nijjar, Co-Chair, Religions for Peace European Women of Faith Network, comes from Scotland/United Kingdom with the specific tradition of a multi faith approach to Religious Education in schools. In this context learning about religion and learning from religion are two sides of the subject. The syllabuses are developed in cooperation between representatives of the religions and educational authorities. These Standing Advisory Committees on Religious Education (SACREs) care for an authentic presentation of the different religions in textbooks and teaching material. They help for a lively encounter with the religious traditions and communities, and students can discover the treasures of the religions for their personal development with the values of tolerance, respect, sensitivity and giving a deeper meaning to life. In the Birmingham SACRE, 24 spiritual and moral dispositions have been identified in 2007; to name just some of them: “Being Imaginative and Explorative”, “Expressing Joy”, “Being Thankful”, “Caring for Others, Animals and the Environment”, “Being Regardful of Suffering”, “Being Modest and Listening to Others”, “Being Courageous and Confident”, “Being Reflective and Self-Critical”, “Being Silent and Attentive to, and Cultivating a Sense for, The Sacred and Transcendence”. The British experiences should inspire the debates about the presence of Religious Education in public schooling internationally. 

The DEBATE in the 2nd session has taught us how helpful it can be if the different projects inspire each other especially if there are parallel challenges and learning conditions: for example in an exchange between Israeli/Palestinian and Northern Ireland integrative initiatives, or the Sarvodaya rural development in India and Sri Lanka. The engagements prove to be very strong when they derive from a fundamental religious and spiritual identity and commitment. It is a common conviction in the different religious traditions that awakening the necessary responsibility for the community as well as for the environment begins which each individual und with the conversion of the hearts for solidarity and helpfulness. 

 

III. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MULTI-RELIGIOUS ACTIONS

The project examples discussed above show the wide range of activities that are implemented on var­ious levels and contexts and highlight how much more is done and how much more is possible than is commonly known by the public, or even by religious communities. In order to inspire religious communities, inter-religious councils and groups to further action, continuous and professional net­working is needed, through

 

         Initiating systematic approaches to cross-cultural and inter-religious exchange, as well as evalua­tions of methods, experiences and outcomes of religious and multi-religious learning;

         Encouraging new actions in the specific religious and educational contexts of the respective re­gions, countries and districts;

         Looking for opportunities of collaboration between religious communities, inter-religious coun­cils and the stakeholders of public education in order to incorporate religious and multi-religious learning in syllabi, teacher training and the development of textbooks and educational media;

         Cooperating with institutions and promoters of intercultural education (UNESCO, Alliance of Civilisation);

         Develop educational programs.

 

The different branches and levels of the RfP family should engage in education according to their specific strengths and the structures of educational possibilities in which they can and do work:

         At the global level, RfP representatives, in cooperation with stakeholders like UNESCO and the Alliance of Civilisations, should advocate for the need for and possibilities of religious and mul­ti-religious education.

         At the regional level, the Latin American Inter-Religious Network on Peace Education (RILEP) could be an example of how to promote peace education in religious communities, particularly in specific educational frameworks, through mutual understanding and fraternity, overcoming all kinds of prejudices.

         At the national level, the collaboration between religious communities, inter-religious councils/ groups and the stakeholders of public education should improve curriculum development and teacher training as well as the educational programs of the religious communities themselves.

         At the local level, inter-religious groups should be the initiators of meetings, dialogue and cooper­ation between the religious communities. These activities, themselves, also act as educational ways of Welcoming the Other

         The Women of Faith network could widen its range of campaigns, drawing on the example of the project Restoring Dignity and taking into account the prominent activities of women in religious affairs worldwide and the need for advocacy to address their often marginalized and neglected security and rights needs.

         The youth network, through their multi-religious meetings and youth camps, provide a special opportunity for inter-religious learning. It is often difficult to engage young people in long-term projects and memberships, because many are struggling to create successful lives for themselves through education, training, and new jobs. Common activities and projects can be a means to ex­perience the possibilities of multi-religious collaboration.

 

For the DEBATE during the 3rd session, 5 discussion groups have been built in order to reflect the recommendations and to adjust them to the different countries the participants came from. The direction of the recommendations was agreed by everybody, but within a country-specific framework: problems and challenges as well as positive opportunities have proved to be different in every country and have to be examined carefully in order to know where to begin with the learning endeavors. The “men and women power” present in the Commission would have needed more time because each of the participants would have been able to bring in most valuable contributions from his or her background.

The KAICIID’s initiative to build a Global Network on Religious and Interreligious Education was unanimously welcomed. The wide spread competences of the RfP-Family build a resource which should be much more intensely used for cooperation: A longer lasting, systematic work is needed as it has been intended by the Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC) since its founding at the end of the last century. It would needs more funding than is possible for a work on a voluntary basis.

One proposal could be to elaborate a Global Mapping of Interreligious Peace Education Projects – as it has been done for the European Region in the PESC publication “Interreligious and Values Education in Europe. Map and Handbook (2008)”. 

 

SOURCES

PUBLICATIONS OF THE PEACE EDUCATION STANDING COMMISSION OF RFP:

         Peace Education from Faith Traditions. Contributions to the Dialogue Among Civilizations (UN-Year 2001). Nürnberg 2001.

         A Soul for Education. Projects for Spiritual and Ethical Learning Across Religions.Nürnberg 2003.

         Preservation Development Reconciliation. Religious Education and Global Responsibility. International and Interreligious Contributions. Nürnberg 2005.

         J.Lähnemann / P.Schreiner (Ed.): Interreligious and Values Education in Europe. Map and Handbook. Münster 2008.

 

OTHER

         Council of Europe White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue: Living Together as Equals in Dig­nity, 2008.http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/intercultural/Source/Pub_White_Paper/White%20Pa­per_final_revised_en.pdf.

         F.Daou / N.Tabbara: Roadmap for a Euro-Mediterranean Cross-Cultural Education: the experience of Adyan Understanding Program, in Intercultural Dialogue and Multi-level Gov­ernance in Europe.P.I.E.Peter Lang, 2012 (381-396).

         John Keast, Religious Diversity and Intercultural Education: A Reference Book for Schools, Council of Europe: 2007.

         J.Lähnemann: Interreligious Textbook Research and Development: A Proposal for Standards In: M.L.Pirner/J.Lähnemann (Ed.): Media Power and Religions.The Challenge Facing In­tercultural Dialogie and Learning.Frankfurt/M.2013, p.147-159.

         D.L.Moore: Overcoming Religious Illiteracy.A Cultural Studies Approach to the Study of Religion in Secondary Education.New York 2007.

         REDCo: Religion in Education.A contribution to Dialogue or a factor of Conflict in trans­forming societies of European Countries? http://www.redco.uni-hamburg.de/web/3480/3481/ index.html.

         Wolfram Reiss, Investigation on school textbooks of four countries in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Turkey), http://www.eumed.net/entelequia/pdf/2006/e02a14.pdf.

         Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools, ODIHR, OSCE, 2007, http://www.osce.org/odihr/29154.

         UNESCO, Guidelines on Intercultural Education, 2007, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/imag­es/0014/001478/147878e.pdf.

         UNESCO, Toolkit on revision/adaptation of curricula, school textbooks and other learning ma­terials to remove cultural, religious and gender-biased stereotypes, UNESCO / Georg Eckert Institute: 2013.



[1] The following arguments are taken from the draft report of the KAICIID-project “The Image of the Other”. Interreligious and Intercultural Education. Best Practices in the Europe-Mediterranean Region. Working Session 22 May 2013.