Experts call for fighting intolerance with peace education in schools (Pakistan)

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Experts call for fighting intolerance with peace education in schools (Pakistan)

(Reposted from: Daily Times.  March 1, 2017)

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference here on Tuesday stressed on peace education in schools saying this could help address growing intolerance in the society by making the younger generation appreciate religious, cultural, and linguistic diversity.

They were speaking at a day-long conference on “Fostering Culture of Peace Through Education”, which was jointly organised by the German organisation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Member National Assembly Asiya Nasir, at the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services.

The conference brought together academicians, civil society activists, students and parliamentarians for discussing the role of peace education in dealing with extremism. The conference participants agreed that intolerance was a big impediment to peace, which could be best dealt with through education. Educating children about different cultures, religions and traditions, it was emphasised, could enable them to better understand others. The media was also urged to focus on positives in the society instead of negatives.

Host Ms Asiya Nasir, while stressing peace education, said strong political commitment and passion was required for a peaceful and harmonious society. Urging everyone to play their role, she said, change could be achieved if everyone thinks about promotion of peace and contributes towards it. “Starting with children is one way of getting closer to the goal of culture of peace and non-violence,” she noted.

“Starting with children is one way of getting closer to the goal of culture of peace and non-violence.”

The Vice Chancellor Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Dr Asad Zaman, called for a multi-pronged and multi-dimensional strategy for achieving the vision of a harmonious and tolerant Pakistan. He said it was important to change the narrative. Positive things, he said, needed to be projected, while treating negatives as exception.

Dr Zaman said the society was full of examples of selfless service, tolerance, and hospitality, which needed to be highlighted. Underscoring the importance of the media’s role in influencing attitudes and behaviours, he said: “If newspapers highlight incidents of hospitality, harmony, tolerance, mutual accommodation, the people will be motivated in this direction. Contrariwise, highlighting news of the other type can create intolerance.”

Senator Rubina Khalid, who chaired the session, wondered why the youth were not taught about their rich cultural heritage and history. She regretted that religion had been turned into a business and said this ‘madness’ must come to an end.

Dr Kamran Naqi, an educationist, said childhood education was very important, but got little attention in Pakistan. “Our investment on preschool curricula presents a quite dismal picture. It is a point where children of +4 should get a fair amount of opportunity for self-expression besides nurturing the norms of cooperation, fellow feeling, and starting to internalise the values of sharing.”

Mr Anjum James Paul, Chairman Pakistan Minorities’ Teachers Association said extremism would have to be rooted out from curricula and textbooks. He suggested strengthening of family bonds, involvement in social activities, respecting diversity and rights of others, standing up against oppression and volunteerism as possible ways for tackling intolerance in society.

He said that white racism was emerging in the west as a new force.

The Chairman Senate said that Cuba and Pakistan were true friends who stood by each other in every difficult time. He acknowledged the Cuban government’s kind gesture of offering 1200 scholarships to Pakistani doctors, adding that, they were also grateful for their medical help in any natural calamity as the Cuban medical squad always played a leading role in voluntary services.

Mian Raza Rabbani called for promotion of parliamentary cooperation, exchange of delegations and information between the Senate of Pakistan and the Cuban National Assembly. He also urged the need for enhancing economic, social and political relations between the two countries. He invited the President of Cuban National Assembly to visit Pakistan as a guest of the Senate of Pakistan.

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