A call to Address Identity-based Violence through Teach-ins at American* Universities

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The Human Right to Dignity, Identity and Personal Security: a Message from the International Institute on Peace Education to Peace Educators of American Universities

Dear Colleagues in Peace Education,

The rise in hate crimes experienced during these months of intense political is an assault on the fundamental rights of citizens integral to our constitutional democracy. They also pose a serious obstacle to the essential goals of peace education and peace studies, learning toward the achievement of a just and peaceful global order. While identity violence is not unique to the US it is in our own society that we have the opportunity and responsibility to take civic action toward overcoming it. Certainly, confronting the open manifestation of hatred toward any groups or individuals in this country is a responsibility to be taken up by all citizens, but most especially by peace educators who have committed themselves professionally and personally to educate for and to strive toward overcoming violence in all its manifestations. The public articulation of racial, religious and gender prejudice and hatred with the resulting discrimination and violence should be addressed by all realms of education, and most especially by university level peace studies.

American universities have a history of rising to such challenges. The struggle for civil rights, the Vietnam War, South African Apartheid, campus gender violence and climate justice, among other such challenges have produced responses of learning/action at colleges and universities across the country. We believe that this epidemic of hate, particularly Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, should be similarly confronted by the academic community. Multiple possibilities and resources can be drawn upon, from holding campus-wide teach-ins that address the crimes and their causes, to introducing study of religious beliefs and practices into peace studies programs. The extreme ignorance about the religious beliefs, cultural practices and histories of the multiple faiths that profoundly influence the worldviews and ways of life of most peoples of the world has been a significant factor in the occurrences of hate crimes. This ignorance that facilitates such egregious violation of human rights is an issue that the peace studies community is well able to address.

Some of your campuses have partnered with Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)** to train student leaders, develop curriculum, or advance a campus strategy focused on interfaith cooperation. Others have civically active campus ministries, representing multiple faiths. We call on peace educators to consider exploring with the IFYC-related group on your campus and/or your campus ministries to cooperate in organizing such a teach-in. While crimes against any and all groups might be considered as the focus of your efforts, those manifesting virulent Islamophobia and violent outbursts of Anti-Semitism combined with proposals for a Muslim registry, and the executive order banning entry to the US of some Muslim countries, as well the intense conflicts over BDS makes these especially acute problems. These crimes are not only assaults on American values of religious tolerance and the right to personal dignity and security, they are violations of international human rights standards that as stated in the UDHR are “the foundation of peace in the world.” The teach-ins might set the consideration of the crimes in terms of both these national values and constitutional rights and the relevant human rights standards with which all citizens should be familiar. They are essential knowledge for those seeking to become agents of peace.

Should you undertake to introduce this possibility, we would appreciate your sharing your plans and experience, so that we may pass them on to others in a series of posts via the Global Campaign for Peace Education news feed in April.

We would, as well, be glad to pass on and to suggest resources for teach-ins or for the inclusion of the study of various religious beliefs in peace studies courses. Especially relevant would be the teachings about peace and relations with others that are set forth by multiple world religions, including denominational statements on issues such as nuclear weapons, disarmament, nonviolence and the environment.

Please let us hear from you about your plans or what you may already be doing on your respective campuses. Please contact us at [email protected].

We send our wishes and hopes that the year ahead will see some significant advances toward the tolerance of differences, appreciation of diversity so essential to a just peace on our campuses, in our communities, this country and the world,

The International Institute on Peace Education Secretariat:

Tony Jenkins, Georgetown University
Janet Gerson, IIPE
Dale Snauwaert, The University of Toledo
Betty Reardon, IIPE Founding Director Emeritus

*We welcome and encourage participation from universities and community groups from around the world!

**IFYC offers campus innovation grants, faculty development grants, free educational resources, and other tools to help you plan and implement events. Contact Julia Smith ([email protected]) to discuss opportunities that may be right for you and your campus.

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