Justpeace Education for Children and Youth

Organized by:  Center for Justpeace in Asia and the Interfaith Cooperation Forum

Hosted by:  Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad India
November 27 - 30, 2005


Conflict and violence touch the lives of children throughout Asia on a daily basis.  The violence may be in the form of war, poverty, racism or exclusion.  Whatever the form, children are deeply affected by it and their futures are influenced by how they learn to deal with the realities of this conflict and violence. At the same time children, even very young ones, have far more ability to be involved in social change than most people recognize.

The Justpeace Education for Children and Youth workshop aims to
assess the need for bringing interfaith peace and justice learning into schools in Asia and to map out a process for developing curriculum and/or a resource kit for peace education that can be used at various levels in schools.  

Workshop Summary

Day 1:            Hearing each others stories

Day 2:            Exposure and more stories

Day 3:            Principles of Justpeace Education

Day 4:            Workshop Outcomes

Day 1:  Hearing each others stories

Sharing from Palestine, Nepal, India – Rafiki, Philippines, South Africa, India – HMI

The opening day of the workshop started with an interfaith prayer lead by Shanaz, Madhavi, and Phebe. After a brief welcome to the Henry Martyn Institute by its director, Andreas D’Souza, Max Ediger set the framework for the workshop with his opening presentation in which he addressed the reality of children in conflict areas, the concept of justpeace, and the expected outcomes for the workshop. Much discussion was generated on the differing perceptions of justice in this world.

In lieu of Ahmad Al’Azzeh’s presence, Max shared some of his stories from a former trip to Palestine and also described some of the Ahmad’s projects from information he had provided prior to the workshop. Ahmad is working with Holy Land Trust, an organization that promotes the integration of peacebuilding into Palestinian schools. Another specific project highlighted in the material was the “Remember the Innocence Club,” which is a multi-faith group of teenagers who mentor younger children and foster the atmosphere of peace through games and activities.

Following the Palestinian perspective Bishnu Pukar Shrestha, a former secondary school teacher and current peace activist, shared about the situation in Nepal, a country in the midst of armed conflict and insurgency. Bishnu shared some alarming statistics from his country, among them school dropout rates that approached 50% of the youth population. He also shared some of the positive work groups are doing to promote peace and the rights of children, including the idea of a “Children’s Parliament” used to empower children and give them a voice in the context of national decision-making.

In contrast to the responses to physical violence evident in the armed struggle of Nepal, Sunitha shared how her work with Rafiki, a multi-cultural, lingual, and religious theatre group based out of Bangalore (India), dealt with issues of structural violence through their “Towards Making Rainbows” program. This program raises the issue of diversity among students and encourages them to actively participate in their own education through a technique called Forum theatre. Students are invited to participate in dialogue over topics such as whether or not building a wall is an appropriate solution to conflict. This presentation generated discussion about involving children through creative means like art, drama and story telling.

Next Phebe Crismo spoke out of a Philippine context, which included both elements of ethnic and religious diversity as well as a long history of national insurgency and poverty. From this perspective she highlighted the necessity of sensitivity towards cultural traits and norms in any form of peace education so that trust can be built and sustained. Establishing “Zones of Peace” and creating resource materials about the rights of children were among the various ideas that she shared.

While not from an Asian context, the group was happy to hear stories shared by Anu Pillay, a South African of Indian descent studying in Hyderabad. Through her stories it became quite clear that there are more similarities internationally, than differences in terms of responses to conflict and the positive involvement of children in justpeace education. Some of the examples which exemplified the concepts of justpeace within the South African context included buddy systems, child run health centers, international school twinning programs.

The day finished with a brief introduction to the work and programs of the local teachers at the Aman Shanti Centre and other HMI run projects in Hyderabad. These community-based programs work at bringing together the Muslim and Hindu communities in Hyderabad through the establishment of community schools, local income generation and skill building programs, and community health clinics.

Day 2:  Exposure and more stories

Exposure to Aman Shanti Centre, Sharing from Sri Lanka, Malaysia

After participating in an interfaith worship/mediation with HMI staff and students, workshop participants visited Aman Shanti Centre for an exposure trip. At the centre participants saw first hand the impact of justpeace principles within the community through the work of a health clinic, a primary school and skill building classes like embroidery and sewing. Further discussion about the establishment of the centre revealed that introducing the concepts of peace into a community is a long process that requires much work, dedication, and involvement. This long-term and intentional participation was exemplified through early visits from HMI staff and teachers to members of the community, arranged in order to understand the needs of the neighbourhood and build confidence in each other and in the work of the centre, and continues through parent teacher meetings and community peace picnics. It was clear through this experience that students learned the principles of peace through the example of their teachers, who emulate these values as they positively work along side each other regardless of their faith background, which is equally distributed between Hindu and Muslim at the centre.

In the afternoon, Marliya Izzadeen shared about the Sri Lankan experience. Marliya gave a brief history of Sri Lanka and explained how the root causes of conflict can be confounded and often misrepresented as religious instead of ethnic or vice versa. In this discussion, it was important to note that strategies for peace education are dependent on the context and must be adapted to the specific situation. Many NGO’s in Sri Lanka are working on children’s rights. One such program is the “Lilies of the Field” which brings children together in small support groups.

Shazeera Ahmad Zawawi, from the Human Right Commission of Malaysia, was the last to share about different regional experiences. She shared examples of activities used to promote human rights and peace education in Malaysia. Based on the example of publishing a regular column about human rights in a local newspaper, she challenged participants to look at ways of using local media sources to spread the concepts of justpeace beyond the classroom. Training of young trainers, human rights camps, school talks and poster/art competitions were among some of the other activities that were used within the Malaysian experience.

Day 3:  Principles of Justpeace Education

Discussion of learning in small working groups

In small groups participants formulated principles for Justpeace Education by connecting their own experiences and lessons learned to the sharing of the group from the previous two days. The following principles are meant to serve as a guideline for future Justpeace Education work.

Justpeace education must be rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and all other related international conventions.

Justpeace education must use local resources, people and wisdom in order to be sustainable. Programs and resources must be sensitive to the local culture and be accessible to and involve all members of the community, through addressing the target group’s characteristics, understandings and needs: language, age, religion, education level, etc. Justpeace education must start at the grassroots and move towards national transformation.

Justpeace education recognizes that every situation is different and requires different responses. Creativity, persistence, patience and flexibility are invaluable qualities, in light of minimal resources and opposing attitudes.  Set models for justpeace education are not always applicable in every situation. Justpeace education is a long and continuing process.

Justpeace education must provide a safe space for people to voice their needs and express their feelings, and thus create an environment of mutual respect and empowerment within the wonderful diversity of human life. Representation of different faith, gender, and ethnic communities, in the context of interfaith work, is essential.

Justpeace education starts at early childhood through interaction and experiential learning. Elaborate resources are not necessary. In order to ensure continuity, justpeace education must foster emerging leaders among the youth within the community to serve as mentors/examples for the younger children.
Justpeace education must be aware of appropriate terminology, and use inclusive language.

Justpeace educators not only facilitate the exchange of information, but also model the concept of justpeace through their lives and interactions. Every person has the capacity to teach and to learn. Justpeace education is the responsibility of all people.

Justpeace educators must acknowledge their personal limitations and identify appropriate networks that can be called upon to handle situations that emerge from justpeace education in order to support the physical, social, and emotional needs of children, youth and staff as necessary.

Justpeace educators must avoid judging violent responses to oppression. Understanding violent conflict does not mean that the violence is justified. Rather, educators must work together with all involved parties and constantly seek non-violent and participatory alternatives to conflict.

Day 4:  Workshop Outcomes

Small group discussions

The final day of the workshop evaluated the principles outlined from the previous day and suggested concrete tools that would contribute to the expansion of the Justpeace Education network and philosophy. These outcomes are listed below:

Introductory Brochure to Justpeace Education

The creation of an introductory brochure about Justpeace education will help people to explain and promote the principles of Justpeace to others within their network. A brochure is necessary to help reach those communities who do not have ready access to the Internet.

Justpeace Education Resource Kit

The creation of an electronic portal (website), also printed for distribution in a loose-leaf binder format, will centralize information that already exists about Justpeace education. One section will include descriptions of activities, games, songs and other ideas that are being used to promote the principles of Justpeace. Another section will list organizations that are involved in various types of justpeace education. There will also be a section of stories/case studies of justpeace education in action. Workshop participants are expected to contribute to the content of this resource kit. Information will be submitted electronically to the workshop email group, justpeace_education@yahoogroups.com. The Interfaith Cooperation Forum will initially host the electronic portal on the ICF website.

Expand Justpeace Education Networks

It was suggested that each of the workshop participants could work at expanding the Justpeace education network locally and nationally by integrating the concept of justpeace into our already existing activities, and by looking for other groups/individuals with similar interests.

List of Participants

1) Marliya Izzadeen (Sri Lanka)
2)Bishnu Pukar Shrestha (Nepal)
3)Tony Waworuntu
(Hong Kong)
4)Shazeera Ahmad Zawawi (Malaysia)
5)Phebe Gamata Crismo (Philippines)
6)Yip Kok Choong (Hong Kong)
7)Jahan Ara (India)
8)Madhavi Latha (India)
9)Shanaz Fatima (India)
10)Babitha (India)
11)Durdana (India)
12)Vani Soi (India)
13)Swapna (India)
14)Rajeswari (India)
15)Shailaja (India)
16)Human (India)
17)Mini Nair (India)
18)Sunitha (India)
19)Anu Pillay (India/South Africa)
20)Max Ediger (Hong Kong)
21)Trisha Niemeyer (Hong Kong)

  Invited participants unable to attend who sent their regrets:

1)Ms. A. Elga J. Sarapung (Indonesia)
2)Mary Selvarag (India)

3)Mr. Ahmad Al'Azzeh