Colombia Prepares for Peace
(Culture of Peace News Network) As the government of Colombia and the FARC enter their 40th cycle of peace talks, the people of Colombia are optimistic that an end is in sight to the half century of civil war that has torn their country apart and they are preparing for peace. The peace talks reconvened August 20 in Havana with “a renewal of confidence in the peace process, spawned by the parties’ expressed willingness to accelerate the pace in Havana and to de-escalate the violence in Colombia.” Among their decisions in recent talks was the promise to create a truth commission. As the peace talks have advanced, the amount of violence has decreased according to arecent study by the United Nations. As Amada Benevides explains in her letter to CPNN from Colombia, “The process of negotiating a peace agreement with the FARC has advanced many topics, including education for peace. For the first time in Colombia it is being mentioned explicitly, and not by other names, and in this sense we have several new initiatives . . . [including a] National Meeting on Education for Peace, to be held on 1 and 2 October.” She adds, “Since we have been working more than 15 years to put forward the necessity of peace education in Colombia, this is really a very exciting time.” Peace education is becoming a required subject in the schools of Colombia. According to law 1732, adopted in 2014, the national government has decreed that “the teaching of Peace is regulated in all educational institutions of the country”. Culture of peace and sustainable development are to be implemented in the academic syllabus before December 31, 2015, in the areas of social sciences, history, geography, politics and democracy constitution, life sciences, environmental education, ethics, human values and principles. (Click above to read more)
Youth Activists from Around the World Meet in Hiroshima to Pledge Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
(SGI.org) From August 28 to 30, 2015, an International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition was held in Hiroshima, bringing together 30 key youth activists on nuclear disarmament from more than 20 countries, from Tunisia to Kazakhstan, India and the USA. Participants met with survivors of the atomic bombing, discussed future strategies aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons and created a “Youth Pledge” in which they call nuclear weapons a symbol of a bygone age. The pledge concludes: “We, the Generation of Change, invite you to join us as we raise our collective voice to call for action; we refuse to stand by while nuclear weapons continue to threaten our lives and future generations. Join us, take action and create change!” The full pledge can be read and signed here. . See also: "Revolution in You," SGI-USA's anthem for the abolition of nuclear weapons; SGI's Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II and the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and voices of support from leading peace educators.
Up From Hiroshima (Japan)
(National Geographic Archives) The furtherance of peace is a recurrent theme in Hiroshima. People like Akihiro Takahashi, who was a 14-year-old schoolboy at the time of the bomb, now lecture on the subject as part of an outreach program in a building in Peace Memorial Park, bordered by the hundred-yard-wide expanse of Peace Boulevard. “We have to tell what happened,” he said. “This must be handed down from one generation to the next.” Takahashi and those like him are on a mission to bear witness in the name of peace. They constitute a powerful lobby, whose influence gives city politics a global reach. No nuclear test anywhere in the world is reported without a telegram of protest signed by the mayor of Hiroshima; at one time or another the leaders of China, France, the U. S., and the former Soviet Union have all received such telegrams. And in the heart of the peace park a flame will be kept burning until the world is free of nuclear weapons. Peace education is an integral part of the curriculum in public schools throughout the city, and schoolchildren on field trips are frequent visitors to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. “I want to make Japan a peaceful country,” said 11-year-old Maho Shichijo, pulling up her Mickey Mouse socks. When I met Maho, she was standing with her mother in the playground of the Fukuromachi Primary School, where 300 children had died in the nuclear inferno. Maho has read more than ten books on the bomb, written school reports about it, and badgered the custodian of her apartment building, a hibakusha, to tell her all about how he survived. Her mother, Tomoko Shichijo, who moved here from Nagasaki, nodded approvingly at this interest. “This is the best peace education. To know the reality. If we lived somewhere else, we would never feel it firsthand.”
NCSS Endorses Human Rights Education in the United States (USA)
(HREA) HREA (Human Rights Education Associates) welcomes the new, official position statement by the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) recognizing the importance of human rights education as a necessity for effective social and civic learning. The statement, published in the May/June 2015 edition of Social Education, reflects HREA’s views, affirming that “Human Rights Education, in both its civil and its humanitarian aspects, is a necessary element of social studies programs and should be integrated throughout the educational experience of all learners from early childhood through advanced education and lifelong learning.” The statement argues that “[t]oday’s students must understand fundamental principles of human rights and humanitarian law to appropriately exercise their civic responsibilities and take their places in the world at large.”
Something good happens when inmates live reflective lives (USA)
(mysanantonio.com) There is a telling moment in the film “Inside Peace” when one of the former prison inmates profiled recounts an incident in which his mother offers to pay what an employer unfairly shorted him. It wasn’t just his financial well-being that worried her. “I’m not going to hit him, Mom. I don’t do that anymore,” said Trinidad Silva, a Texan who tells of an existence in which violence had been his go-to approach to life’s difficulties. “Not doing that anymore” is the goal of the Peace Class at Dominguez State Jail, or was from 2007 until relatively recently. A change in senior leadership at the jail — part of the state’s correctional system — means the class is on hiatus at the moment. From what I saw in this film, this hiatus should be temporary. The program gets at an essential truth about prison recidivism. Releasing people back into communities with the same external forces that triggered their criminal behavior in the first place is, too often, a round-trip ticket back to prison. That is, unless something inside that person changes. Or, as explained in the film, unless the realization dawns that conflict doesn’t begin on the outside; it begins on the inside. This realization leads to good guidance for life generally — for everyone, not just convicts. It is what Peace Class taught.
Youth ‘ambassadors’ to help city cut violence (USA)
The first time Kevin Barnett knew someone who had been killed, it was a decade ago when his sister’s best friend was gunned down in his own doorway. Growing up in the Portland neighborhood, the then-11-year-old Barnett believed “murder was something that was a natural part” of where he lived and that no one could change it. Since then, he has lost more than a dozen friends and family members to homicide, including two uncles and longtime friend Dante Newsome, who was shot to death on Christmas Eve two years ago. “It was brutal,” Barnett said. “They shot him like six times and rolled him over and shot him in his face. It was real crazy. I’ve known him since elementary school.” Barnett, now 22, is one of nearly three dozen youth ambassadors recruited by the city’s Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods department to advise Mayor Greg Fischer’s office on the best ways to curtail violent crime among youths. The effort comes as the mayor’s office, police and community activists grapple with a spike in homicides and shootings this year. “When you’re talking about impacting young people you got to have young people at the table, and I think you have got to have a diverse group who can connect to all of their friends and their peers,” said Anthony Smith, the city’s safe neighborhoods director. The 31-member team is made up of teenagers and young adults from across the city who will serve one-year terms with the department. The youth ambassadors will meet monthly with metro, state and federal officials to discuss their ideas.
Recommendations on Citizenship Education in Schools (Austria)
(Council of Europe) In June 2015, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs issued an updated version of the General Ordinance for Citizenship Education as a Cross-curricular Educational Principle in schools. The General Ordinance points out in particular that “Citizenship education needs to be an essential part of school from the moment a child enters the education system, and to play a key role in all subjects and activities at the school itself from the beginning of compulsory schooling – in particular in the context of school democracy. School should be a place of democratic action as an everyday practice. This allows children and young people to experience at an early age that they not only have a right to participate, but also that each and every individual can bring about change through active commitment”. The document is also intended as a guideline for training and continued education and constitutes a recommendation for other measures of citizenship education.
WANEP Enjoins Stakeholders to Engage Youths Strategically (The Gambia)
(AllAfrica.com) The West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP) Gambia chapter has enjoined other key stakeholders to draw special attention to the importance of the youth and their role in the socio-political life in West Africa and the need for stakeholders to engage youths strategically. This regional bloc organization, which celebrated this year's International Youth Day on the theme; Youth Civic Engagement, acknowledged that many young West Africans have been struggling to find their place in an environment with few options and emerging threats of violent extremism, youth bulge, human trafficking, environmental issues and other challenges facing them. According to a press release: "For this youth day, WANEP recognising that West African Youths have a huge stake in the building of a more just, reconciled, peaceful and sustainable societies and the need to mobilize them and build/strengthen their capacity to participate meaningfully in these processes, has for the past 15-years developed vigorous activities to address these needs. Through the Active non-violence and Peace Education program, WANEP entered into innovative partnerships with Ministries of Education and advocated successfully for the inclusion of Peace Education in schools. The youths were further engaged to take up leadership roles in the Peace Clubs where they learn how to apply neutrality, equity, respect, trust and responsibility; the five values that are crucial to resolving conflicts, promoting reconciliation and building peace.'
Ferguson One Year Later: Turning Anger to Action (USA)
(KMAland) -- The cameras have stopped rolling and the national news crews have gone home, but in the year since the shooting death of Michael Brown, grassroots programs have been driving change in Ferguson. In the past year, said Joshua Saleem, who heads the peace education program run by the American Friends Service Committee, the group has offered three Freedom Schools in the St. Louis area - workshops where young people meet to talk openly about poverty, race and oppression, and strategies for involvement "to shift their understanding of racism from an individual kind of 'I hate you' kind of mindset to a perspective of racism that involves how systems and institutions operate and deal with and interact with people of color in this country." Aja McCoy, 19, of St. Louis was one of the participants in this summer's Freedom School, which she said has empowered her to look at the issues surrounding racism from different angles and to actively seek out ways to be part of the solution. "I have been talking to my fellow church members, my parents, my community," she said, "and it makes me want to be more involved in my community, as well as do greater things for the African-American community as a whole." In addition to the Freedom School workshops, the American Friends Service Committee also has launched community gardens in the area, and has programs in place in three St. Louis-area high schools in which teens learn to mediate conflict with their peers to avoid violence.
Quakers revive Freedom Schools to provide historic clarity, healing, advancement of just society (USA)
(frostillustrated.com) “The American school system is inexcusably treating the civil rights movement, essentially, as if it never happened, part of a collective, general amnesia about African-American history as a whole.” That is the assessment of Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. He offered it in response to a report that the Southern Poverty Law Center issued in 2011, “Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States Since 2011 , Mr. Muhammad said the report can be summed up in one sentence.” The situation is “dismal.” Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace and justice organization, new Freedom Schools have emerged that seek to incarnate both the spirit and prophetic vision of the original Freedom Schools. They provide young people with a historical narrative on class and race, civic engagement, leadership development, and movement building. The author interviewed AFSC Peace Education/Freedom School Director Joshua Saleem about the status of Freedom School in St Louis. Which recently concluded a Summer Freedom School in Ferguson, Missouri. During the interview, Saleem recounted both his personal experiences and the vision Freedom School movement.
A Year After Mike Brown’s Death, Ferguson Activists Fear Little Has Changed (USA)
(MintPressNews) It’s been one year since Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown outside his apartment complex in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Despite superficial changes in the political landscape, people are still being shot by police and community members and activists are still struggling for justice. Speaking with MintPress News, Joshua Saleem, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace Education program, said the past year has made him more cynical about the future. The AFSC is a nonprofit created by the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, who have a strong emphasis on nonviolent conflict resolution and peace. “I was very hopeful a year ago when I saw people paying attention to something that the community of color here in St. Louis has known for a long time,” Saleem said. “But now I’m a little more skeptical, even with the Department of Justice and the work they’ve done, there’s a lot of pushback and a lot of resistance to the change that needs to happen when it comes to undoing institutional racism in the St. Louis region.” The Peace Education Program and its allies are seeking to address racism at its roots. With their help, local students have held a series of four-day events called “Freedom Schools.“ The schools are based on a curriculum called “Undoing Racism,” from The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, which seeks to teach students “what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone.” According to a post on the AFSC website, the schools “helped [participants] gain a sense of their own power to understand and challenge issues of institutional racism, using community organizing skills and their collective energy.” For Saleem, it’s the intelligent, politically active young people he’s collaborated with through Freedom Schools that give him hope. “It’s not about going person to person to change individuals,” he said, “it’s about changing how systems operate and interact with people of color in this community. Young people are awake to that now and I’m hopeful they’ll lead the charge in holding institutions accountable.” In addition to continuing to put pressure on the police and politicians, Saleem said that a major goal of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, the St. Louis-based group he helped students form after a recent Freedom School session, is putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Project to connect American youths with hibakusha winding down (Japan)
(The Japan Times) Setting foot in Hiroshima in early August for the first time, Robert Croonquist expected to feel sorrow for the massive number of lives lost in the U.S. atomic bombing of the city 70 years ago. Instead, the 67-year-old American could not help rejoicing at seeing the familiar faces of atomic bomb survivors he has worked with in a project that began in 2008 to get them to share their dreadful experiences and hardships with high school students in New York. Nevertheless, the project led by his nongovernmental group, dubbed Hibakusha Stories, is ending large-scale visits to schools this year. That means there will be fewer chances for American schoolchildren to hear survivors’ stories firsthand.
SUNY Cortland to Apply Eastern Philosophy to Tackle Global Conflict (USA)
Millions of people believe that strengthening the connection between mind and body through activities like yoga, dance or tai chi can lead to inner peace. SUNY Cortland philosopher Andrew Fitz-Gibbon wonders if it can lead to world peace as well. Fitz-Gibbon, professor and chair of the College's Philosophy Department, is part of a SUNY research team working to find out whether dance and other body-based arts can help families from different backgrounds overcome group prejudice, tension and conflict. SUNY Cortland - along with SUNY's Purchase, Geneseo, Buffalo State College and Brockport campuses - will pilot using creative dance and body movement opportunities in divided New York state communities to build a grassroots approach to conflict resolution, diplomacy, and peace education. Fitz-Gibbon, a tai chi instructor and director of SUNY Cortland's Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice, has long held that physical movement can play a role in humanity's peaceful co-existence. He embraces the Eastern concept of loving one's own body and brings a deep understanding of somaethetics, a new branch of philosophy concerned with the relationship between mind and body, to the research project. "Somaesthetics is new in western philosophy," Fitz-Gibbon said. "It's how we relate the mind to the body. Western philosophy generally has been about the mind. Eastern philosophy has had an equal emphasis on the mind and the body. So somaestheics is now the way some western philosophers are beginning to look at the mind and body connection, particularly through somatic practice; and tai chi is a kind of somatic practice."
Philipino High School valedictorian seeks peace through education (The Philippines)
(rappler.com) The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has the highest number of out-of-school youth across the country as of 2010. A 17-year-old student wants to help change this status. “Nilabanan ko ang takot na aking nadarama (I fought the fear I’m feeling),” said Norombai Utto, a 17-year old girl from Mamasapano, Maguindanao. This was how she graduated on top of her class. “Kumbaga, nagkaroon ako ng pag-asa na balang araw magkakaroon ng pag-asa sa aming komyunidad. (I hoped that someday there will be hope within our community),” Utto shared on Tuesday, July 14, during Rappler’s #HearMindanao forum. The young woman first brought tears to the eyes of many netizens in March 2015, after delivering a powerful valedictory address. Her speech made rounds online, exposing Filipinos to the harsh realities of young people caught between wars. Utto is currently an incoming freshman at the Mindanao State University, where she plans on majoring in education.