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Religion and Peacebuilding - Assignment

codes”. He concludes

codes”. He concludes that “the most important goal of conflict resolution and peacemaking should be the humanization of The Other” by mutual respect for each other's dignity, but should not seek to “homogenise” a moral code for all people irrespective of their deeply-held beliefs. (Gopin:2000:132). 2. Negative Education in Afghanistan An example of where the failure adequately to incorporate religious education into the peacebuilding process had a deleterious effect is in post-2001 Afghanistan (Giustozzi:2010). It is important at this juncture to note that a great many of Giustozzi's references appear to be based on private conversations with NGO staff, members of the Afghan government, etc., and as such is not independently referenced. Nevertheless he is a highly respected academic in Afghan studies. The period under Taleban has entered the public psyche as a time of educational oppression, where girls were excluded, and schools were turned into madrassas, teaching extremist views. This is only half the truth, however, and much of the had already set in prior to the Taleban coming to power in 1996. Years of civil war during the Soviet occupation had meant that by the time the pro-Soviet regime collapsed in 1992, so had the education system. Attempts under the Rabbani government stabilise schooling soon fell apart as the civil war between the various Islamist factions raged. Public funding was diverted to support the conflict. “Education in Kabul collapsed as the capital turned into a battleground among roaming militias”. (Giustozzi: 2010:12). Manipulation of the education system took the form of USAID funding and providing highly progagandized and violent school text-books which focused on the glorification of the Pashtun in Afghan history; vilification of The Other, especially non-Muslims and Shi'as was rife (Spink:2005 cited in Giustozzi:2010:13). The Rabbani government had already increased the amount of religious education in schools, so by the time the Taleban took power, much of the “damage” was therefore already done. Spink alleges that “the Taleban had reduced education to Islamic studies to the exclusion of other subjects” and that “Girls had been forbidden to attend school throughout the Taleban regime”. 8

Giustozzi, however, indicates that the position was somewhat more nuanced, albeit that girls schools were closed down “leading to a near two-thirds collapse in girls' enrolment”. (Giustozzi:2010:13). NGOs and private, underground schools still taught girls, but there was no longer any public education provision for them. The 2001 occupation heralded an era of new development in education. UNICEF launched a “Back To School” campaign in 2002 (Spink:2005:200) What is clear from Spink's paper, however, is the tension between UNICEF, USAID and UNESCO and the Minister of Education in terms of the content of the school curriculum and, importantly, what text books that were to be used. USAID had funded and printed millions of text books which were barely-revised versions of those in the pre-Taleban Rabbani regime. 6 Although they claimed that these books had no religious content, it was not the case, and much of the hate-creating propaganda went unrevised. For many Afghans, after decades of civil war, international investment in education was seen as an opportunity to “lift families out of poverty and enhance social status”. (Giustozzi:2010:15). As a result in the boost of numbers of state schools, religious madrassa attendance declined and many were closed down, (Karlsson and Mansory:2005 cited in Giustozzi:2010:15) although a minority of parents refused to send their children to the state schools on the basis that there was insufficient religious education. This minority view would soon develop into a theme. Giustozzi describes the “soft approach” to education during the period 2002-2003 as “nationbuilding from above”. There was a unified national curriculum, and the focus was on primary and secondary education. The number of hours of religious education was reduced. Many teachers who had had experience in the education system in the 70s and 80s had returned to their roles, some from exile, and were aware of the extent to which education was a useful peacebuilding and 6 “All subject-based books were revised by a team of Afghans working for USAID to remove any direct reference to violence. References in all the books to the mistrust of the descendants of Ali were not removed. There was no representation for non-Sunni, non-Pashtun children of their own histories or culture in the books. The US Government stated that they would only support the printing of the non-religious textbooks, despite the fact that all books were full of religious references. As a result religious books, that instructed ‘true believers’ to kill all non-Muslims, were not revised as a part of the USAID revisions. Instead, with significant pressure from the MoE, UNICEF financed the printing of the Denyat books (religious books). UNICEF and the MoE were responsible for distributing the books to the schools.” (Spink:2005:201) 9

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