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Religion and Peacebuilding - Assignment

nation-building tool, so

nation-building tool, so were fully supportive of the Ministry of Education's curriculum. However, as indicated in Spink's paper, there was contention around the teaching of religion, and the content of religious text books. Already in 2002 extremists were protesting against “international involvement” in schools. Hand-in-hand with the neo-Taleban insurgency, teachers were intimidated and schools were closed down. By 2006 670 schools had been closed. (Giustozzi:2010:17). A contrasting, less Western-centric, view of the problem can be gleaned from Shirazi's paper “ Islamic Education in Afghanistan: Revisiting the United States' Role” (Shirazi:2008). His paper is critical of the role the US has played in Afghanistan's education system, especially during the period of the Soviet occupation era, which he sees as entirely in the geo-political interests of the US to the detriment of Afghanistan. According to Shirazi, US involvement in Afghanistan's education including USAID “(underwriting) the printing of explicitly violent Islamist text-books” with the goal of demonising not on the Soviets but also, in response to what they saw as increasing Iranian interference, Shi'a muslims. (Shirazi:2008:222-223). Arguably the US were complicit in teaching Islamist extremism to pre-Taleban era Afghan children for their own political ends. These are the same text-books that continued to be used, barely-revised, well into the post-2001 era. When Peacebuilding Education Has Worked Well The Northern Ireland peacebuilding educational model is an example of how, when properly funded and administered, a religious education peacebuilding initiative can work well. McGlynn et al. examine the impact of integrated schools for mixed Catholic and Protestant pupils. (McGlynn et al.: 2004). The first school of its kind was Lagan College, which was opened in 1981 by a group of parents, and following changes in the law in 1989 which imposed a duty on the Department for Education to work towards integrated schooling, numbers increased, although as of 2003 they still only made up approximately 5% of the school places available (McGlynn:2003a cited in McGlynn et al.:2004). 10

In parallel, the Department for Education in Northern Ireland (DENI) also introduced a policy of using education as a peacebuilding tool, and the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment has introduced peacebuilding subjects into the national curriculum, so that even those children who do not attend integrated schools are nevertheless taught about peace and reconciliation. ( McGlynn et al.:2004:151). The paper highlights four areas of impact: identity, out-group attitudes, forgiveness and reconciliation. The overall conclusions are that: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ There is an overwhelmingly positive effect of integrated schooling on sectarian attitudes which emanates more from the actual cross-community contact itself rather than from the ethos being taught. In other words, being in school with people from the “other” community is what softens sectarian attitudes. Similarly, the sharing of an educational space, rather than the peacebuilding ethos, is what drives an improved attitude to the “out-group” and the ability to forgive. The evidence appears to show that, as a result, integrated schooling promotes reconciliation. The effect of the education programmes should not be underestimated. (McGlynn et al.:2004:156-158) Lessons to be Learned? There are key contrasts to be highlighted between the peacebuilding efforts that failed and the one that shows success: 1. In both the Israeli and Afghan cases, there were top-down solutions involving outside influences that were not sufficiently religiously “sensitive”. In the case of Israel, the democracy programme, part-sponsored by members of the US Jewish diaspora, was taught around a liberal, secular moral code which was at odds with that of the Israeli haredi 11

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