Embracing Peace Education: A Way to Peace Education and a Better World

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By F. Richard Schneider (USA/India), Leban Serto (India), and Bernedette Muthien (South Africa)*

(Welcome letter: Issue #78 December 2010)

india1During the visit of the United States President Barrack Obama to Mumbai and New Delhi, India, a group of likeminded peace activists and practitioners from several parts of the world gathered in a little corner of Northeast India (NEI), in Shillong, Meghalaya state, home of three ancient matrilineal tribes. This critical international peace education conference took place 6-8 November 2010 under the theme of “Embracing Peace Education –Empowering the Individual, Institutions and Communities, Special focus on India” – to begin the journey to create a new system with a bold mission, helping families and communities raise and educate healthy, capable young people. This meeting was the result of more than a year’s extensive consultation and planning, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. It was the locus of child advocacy and its loyalty will be to the well-being of children, families, women and men, communities, and the planet, rather than to administration, curriculum or political correctness. The systems will be an integral part of the community, not a separate entity. It was a meeting of hearts as much as of heads.

F.Richard Schneider, the convenor has been working in the southern part of India for 19 years, and Leban Serto, long time peace education activist, and co-ordinator of the Post Graduate Diploma in Peace Studies at Martin Luther Christian University, co-convened this ground breaking event. They collaborated with, among many others, Bernedette Muthien of Engender in South Africa, who co-convened the plenary and two workshops on Matriarchies and Peace on Day 2.

The theme on the Interfaith peace dialogue, Religious intervention and reconciliation was facilitated by American Baptist Global consultant Daniel Buttry, who drew on the teaching of various interfaith heroes and conducted workshops on understanding and transforming conflict through nonviolent dialogue. Vijay Kumar Shrotryia spoke of peace and happiness; Ravi Bhatia discussed the Nai Talim of Gandhi’s philosophy on education: Herkan Neadan Toppo presented an elaborate paper on the various schemes and projects of the Government of India for the Tribal (indigenous) populations and emphasized the need to do much more; Maya John Ingty focused her talks from her experiences on peace and livelihood; Leiren Singh shared his concern for the urgent need of peace education in Northeast India. There were workshops on world core curriculum and the need for healing with nature conducted by Richard Schneider; Raj Neogy and Jill Nagle from California conducted workshops on conflict resolution, communications and social mediations; A.S Guha facilitated a workshop on literature poetry of feelings under the theme of Poetry for Peace highlighting some of the writers and poets of the NEI region.  Bernedette Muthien along with a team of local participants — Caroline Marak from the Achik (Garo), Patricia Mukhim(Khasi) and Valentina Pakyntien from the Pnar (Jiantia) — deliberated on the theme of matriarchal communities; nonviolence and peace and the changes that are taking place among the various local matrilineal communities of Meghalaya. The indispensable value and importance of matrilineal leadership and these societies’ examples of social and gender egalitarianism, peace, nonviolence and conflict resolution were emphasised. The workshops and panels emphasised the need for peace education and how to create more tolerable and caring communities while imparting skills to youn
ger generations.

The cultural events in the evenings had students displaying the colourful ethnic dances from the tribes of Burma with the Shan, Kachin, Karen and Chin. The ethnic tribes in Northeast India included the Khasis, Tangkhul Nagas, Mizos, Karbis and Garos with some women and men showing a spectrum of their colourful ethnic attires.

The North East Council (NEC), a regional Indian government administration, supported the conference, among other sponsors. The expressions of solidarity were received from a wide range of people around the world, including Tony Jenkins at Columbia University. Northeast India has a particular history of violence and turmoil, with numerous ethnic groups (over 200) and communities all striving to co-exist in the same area, and so this meeting and the research consortium tasked with implementing resolutions and following up actions, are particularly timely and much needed.

india2There were inspiring keynote speeches, panels, workshops, discussion groups, and colourful cultural programs all culminating in a remarkable agreement to  take further our desires for a peaceful world forming the Meghalaya Global Peace Consortium (MGPC) 2010.  Our Vision is to contribute to a society where peace prevails and individuals can realize their full potential by providing knowledge and skills needed to enable them to become global citizens. We aim to understand the causes of conflict and to empower individuals and institutions to embrace the belief and work toward making peace possible. This will be achieved through partnership and collaboration and by working together in programs, designing educational curricula, and other projects and research. We focus on children, women, men, families, communities and the environment. MGPC, 2010 will be a local, state, national and international effort to ensure full democratic, non discriminatory and vigorous participation. It will be an inclusive forum actively soliciting the best participation, advice, counsel, and resources, wherever they may be.

Our actions take place during exciting times for our planet and in human history, especially in our relation as humans to each other and to the planet. We are seeing old ways and systems fall away, even if viable alternatives are still being formulated and implemented. We were co-creators in Shillong, a learning centre in Northeast India, also known as the “Abode of the cloud” to discover best ways of collaboration and partnership. It is a wonderful time to be alive, in full view of a future we in which we can mould and shape our new vision, with the necessary will, values, determination and energy.

Today we are at a stage of human history where vision, compassion, communication and creativity are far more important than traditional literacy. Re-envisioning what learning is about and redesigning our schools and educational systems will provide the single most powerful avenue available to help us navigate an uncertain future. We will then help create the kind of future our children and grandchildren deserve. There is great enthusiasm to move ahead with these ideals and principles in mind.

*F. Richard Schneider, CEO, Institute of Global Education
*Bernedette Muthien, Executive Director, Engender, South Africa
*Leban Serto, Co-ordinator, Peace Studies, Martin Luther Christian University, Shillong, India


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