When tensions between religious and ethnic groups escalate, the lack of knowledge of religious imperatives for peace and understanding of the other combined with long-lasting prejudices can lead some groups to resort to violence. Religions for Peace recognizes that education can break down such ignorance and prejudices, and, in so doing, counter animosities between diverse cultural and religious groups. Religions for Peace has been working to develop peace education materials and organizing training and workshops around the world to promote peace, understanding and common action across faiths.
Centers of Peace for Children in Syria
Religions for Peace, in partnership with senior religious leaders in Syria, has established six Centers of Peace for Children in Syria. The Centers serve children and families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the war by providing physical, educational and psychological support to help ease their suffering. These Centers are also educating the children and their families on the values of peace, truth, honor and love, enabling them to better understand others from different religious backgrounds, and foster trust among families and communities across faiths.
Messages of Peace
Religions for Peace Myanmar has trained religious leaders, women of faith and youth in conflict prevention, and methods of facilitating interfaith dialogue. Religions for Peace Myanmar has contributed to Religions for Peace’s global initiative “Welcoming the Other” (WtO) which promotes not only tolerance but a shared well-being and understanding of the religious and ethnic “other.” These WtO initiatives bring conflicting groups together to engage in inter-religious action for the common good. Religious leaders, including women and youth advance peace education by training local communities to promote “trust” of the other resulting in social cohesion.
Religions for Peace Myanmar developed “ready sermons,” which are messages disseminated by religious leaders to their faithful. These sermons are based on religious teachings that promote peace, tolerance and helping the “other” and are adapted to contemporary issues such as maintaining peace during the electoral process and countering violent religious extremism. These messages, endorsed by leading religious figures in the country from each of the faith traditions, are motivating religious communities to take positive actions for peace.
Promoting Inter-religious Dialogue and Intercultural Education
Education is an essential element to building understanding of the religious and ethnic “other” and bridging the divides caused by social hostility. The increase in understanding and awareness promotes a sense of a shared well-being. Fostering interfaith and inter-ethnic relationships at an early age builds a strong foundation of trust and cooperation that can withstand internal and external shocks. By enshrining inter-religious dialogue and intercultural education into the education system, it is possible to build a culture of acceptance and diversity that works together to build peace.
Religions for Peace works with its national Inter-Religious Councils (IRC) to promote interreligious dialogue and intercultural education within traditional and informal education structures. Working with its partner in Indonesia, three modules were created and approved by religious leaders, government, and education officials to be used in secondary school, university, and non-formal education structures (such as madrassas). These modules have been adopted and are currently in use in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. In Tanzania, the national IRC worked hand in hand with the government, education officials, local CSOs, and religious leaders to expand the national peace curriculum to be inclusive of inter-religious dialogue and education. Working together with education officials, it created monitoring and evaluation plans for assessing the piloted peace education curriculum and implemented 25 peace clubs across the country that engaged teachers and students in promoting diversity and tolerance and engaging in conflict resolution activities.