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Religion and Peacebuilding - Assignment

“negative”

“negative” and “positive” aspects. Negative Uneven distribution of education – privileging one ethnic group over another A weapon of cultural repression – particularly evident in post-colonial societies which have a Euro-centric educational system Denial of education as a weapon of war – destroying the schools of the enemy Manipulating history for political purposes Manipulating text-books – only teaching texts that give the representations the government wish Self-worth and hatred or intolerence of others Segregated education, shoring up inequalities and low self-worth Positive Conflict-dampening effect of equal access to education Nurturing and sustaining an ethnically-tolerant climate De-segregating the minds of those previously segregated Linguistic tolerance Cultivating inclusive citizenship Disarming history, including history of conflicts Educating for peace Education practices to challenge state oppression – eg Catholic schools admitting black children in apartheid South Africa Fig. 1: Negative and Positive Education – (summarised from Bush & Saltarelli: 2000: 9-21) As is clear from this summary, education can be used as a force for good or a force for oppression, as well as reinforcing conflicts between different communities, or different sectors of the same community. Bush and Saltarelli see the solution to be “bottom up”, not “top down”. 5 Equally, they highlight that 5 “Peacebuilding education – like peacebuilding itself - would be a bottom-up rather than top-down process driven by war-torn communities themselves, founded on their experiences and capacities. It would be firmly rooted in 6

educational intergroup initiatives with groups of children caught up in opposing sides in the conflict, that may have, as a result of the “negative” educational practices to which they have been subjected, formed violent attitudes towards The Other can be effective, although “the effectiveness of an education initiative increases to the extent that it is flexible and responsive.” There would also be a requirement for parallel societal structures to support such educational initiatives. They take as an example the conflict in Northern Ireland and the attitudes between Protestants and Catholics. (Bush and Saltarelli:2000:25-26) This, again, reinforces my contention that involvement of religious educators in the peacebuilding process, rather than simply treating religious actors as subjected to peacebuilding education initiatives delivered by others, is inherently important. When Peacebuilding Education Goes Wrong: 1. A Clash of Moral Codes The nature of the religious education involved in the peacebuilding process can be problematic if it is not designed to be as inclusive as possible, and as sensitive as possible to the religious beliefs of the actors involved. Gopin, in his ground-breaking book “Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking” gives an example of how adopting a secular, liberal curriculum in peace education in Israel led to polarization within the community. The haredi community considered some of the values being taught as alien to their culture. “That is not to say that these values are wrong, but that the teachers of these values need to acquire a method of extending these efforts into all segments of the society.” (Gopin:2000:130) Gopin goes on to criticise what he sees as the “one basis error of universal or social scientific methods of peacemaking”: a determination to impose what are deemed to be universal moral codes while failing to have any understanding of, or sensitivity towards, the deeply-entrenched moral values tied to the religious beliefs of some members of the community – a clash of “moral immediate realities, not abstract ideas or theories. It would be applied, immediate, and relevant, which means that it cannot be restricted to the classroom.” (Bush and Saltarelli: 2000: 23) 7

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