Director – Arigatou International, Switzerland
Secretary General – Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children
Learning to Live Together
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that education shall be directed to the full development of the personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Education should promote understanding, respect and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups. This becomes the fundamental principle to ensure a quality education that can help developing children’s ability to live peacefully together with others and embrace diversity.
In our attempt to find ways towards peace, to build peace, we need coalitions. This was obvious already in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it has continued with regard to children’s rights. Building such coalitions has been the guiding star of Arigatou International, the NGO that I serve. Arigatou International liaises and works jointly with UN agencies and other NGOs to foster cooperation within a rights-based approach to the profound issues faced by children and youth today, all geared towards peace building across generations, gender, religions and cultures. For Arigatou International, the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a critical goal and essential step on the path to a world that is healthy and just for all children and youth.
Arigatou International recognizes the vital role that religious leaders and their communities can play in fostering healthy values and supporting positive behaviours in their societies. Religion plays today a central role in public life, and has become a significant identity marker. In our increasingly pluralistic societies, more inter-religious dialogue and cooperation are needed if conflict fuelled by religion is to be constructively addressed.
In a world that is increasingly multicultural and multi-faith, children need to be given the space and opportunities to learn about other cultures and beliefs, to engage in dialogue with people who are different to them, and develop skills to transform conflicts that can arise from the challenges that diversity poses. Education can no longer be reduced to develop only cognitive skills but needs to encompass the development of emotional abilities and ethical values, so as to equip children to strengthen a sense of responsibility, solidarity and empathy with people of other cultural and religious backgrounds. The type of education needed today has to be sensitive to the demands of multicultural societies, thus providing equal opportunities for children to express their beliefs and develop their own identity, aware of others’ identities.
Education need to apply a holistic approach to knowledge, skills and attitudes. Knowledge is more than information, data and declarations. Skills encompass experience and practice. Skills are however more than just the following of rule based actions. In the absence of knowledge and attitudes, a "skilled" person may have no ability or capacity to react to situations and make ethical considerations and decisions. Attitudes have affective, cognitive and behavioural components.
According to UNESCO, education of high quality refers to the development of tools for life that enable learners feel confident and motivated to use the skills they have acquired. Education throughout life is based upon four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live and learning to be.
Learning to Live Together is an outcome of a worldwide initiative of Arigatou International and the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) to promote ethics education and peace education for children. It is an intercultural and interfaith programme designed to contribute to the realisation of children’s right to a full and healthy physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Developed as a contribution to quality education as defined by UNESCO and UNICEF, the programme articulates theory and practice for nurturing children’s ethical values to help them strengthen their identities and critical thinking, build constructive relations with others, and work collectively towards positive change. Learning to Live Together is a resource for those working in peace education programs that promote mutual understanding and respect for people of different cultures and beliefs.
Spiritual and religious traditions are a source of values that can defend dignified life for all; these traditions need to be explored and utilized in ethics and peace education.
It is necessary to apply methodologies that provide space for exchange, interaction, encounter, discovery, critical thinking, reflection and action. Such methodologies place children and young people in a self-driven learning process, conducted in relation to others. It helps developing skills, enhancing participants’ knowledge, and nurtures attitudes that empower them to learn to live and act in a plural society.
Arigatou International is a faith based NGO, in special consultative status with ECOSOC, committed to building a better world for children. An initiator and sustainer of partnership-based initiatives to secure child rights and foster children's well-being, Arigatou International seeks to maximize the potential of interfaith cooperation, and always strives to empower and involve children and youth.
Arigatou International is established by a Japanese Buddhist lay movement, which in May 2000 launched the interfaith network GNRC to mobilize religious leaders and communities to be more active in working for children’s rights and the implementation of the UN CRC. The right to education and especially intercultural and interfaith ethics education for children has always been a key concern.
This Article is written for Peace Islands Institute and The Fountain Magazine.