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South Asia Peace Initiative

Peace Education Offers Hope in Nepal

Special Interview with Dr. Robert Kittel, Director of Peace Education, Universal Peace Federation and adviser for the South Asia Region of UPF. He is one of the pioneer international experts in the promotion of peace education. He has traveled widely around the world and has been to Nepal on several occasions. He has been admired for most influential presentations worldwide. The Grip, an annual educational publication, expresses gratefulness to Dr. Kittel for offering his invaluable time and responding to the queries we have put forth to him.

Question 1: Dr. Kittel, Welcome to the Special Interview of The Grip based on the theme of peace education. You may be aware of the fact that His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education and Sports (HMG/MOES) and Private and Boarding Schools’ Organization, Nepal (PABSON) have both declared educational institutions as Zone of Peace almost two years ago. Dr. Kittel, since when did the term peace education come into existence and how can we best define it?

Answer 1: Traditionally, the term “peace education” includes three categories: peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding. Peacekeeping can be defined as violence management. Its goal is to respond to situations where violence has already broken out and prevent it from escalating further. In peacemaking, conflict resolution is the primary goal. Incorporating a variety of techniques to resolve disputes, it tries to get the warring parties to work out their differences rather than fight. Peacebuilding works to create a culture of peace in the society at all levels, promoting non-violent strategies as legitimate means to address differences and disagreements.

The Universal Peace Federation has a unique approach to peace education. First, in peacekeeping and peacemaking we see the involvement of the religious communities as absolutely essential. Political, economic, military and other government institution must be at the table, but faith-based organizations (FBOs) and other non-government organizations (NGOs) are simply too large and too powerful to be sidelined. The FBOs, especially, have huge resources (financial and human), networks reaching the rural areas, years of experience in education and health care, respect from the broad sectors of society, and a willing spirit to endure suffering and make sacrifices.

Secondly, if the goal is simply the “cessation of hostilities,” then it may help in the short term, but falls short of a real, permanent solution. Conflict will arise again. True religious ideals set the bar higher; instead, they call for the “cessation of hatred.” This is certainly more difficult and challenging, but addressing things like anger, resentment, selfishness, and prejudice (religious, racial, and gender) is the right approach. When these problems are solved, this will resolve the deeper root-causes of human violence and give all sides hope for lasting peace. In peacebuilding, we put an emphasis on the individual and the family.

Question 2: Basically, who are the ones who must be involved in peace education and where do we actually begin?

Answer 2: In peace education, as defined by UPF, everyone is involved. Where does it begin? The process of building a culture of peace starts both in the individual and in the family, almost simultaneously. Within each individual person there exists both a public and private dimension to life. I'm talking about the relationship between one’s mind and body. This first principle of peace is called The Dual Purpose Principle, and is about setting the proper mind-body relationship. This requires us to set correct priorities in our lives; in a word, self-regulation. Here’s how it works:

Within each of us the mind takes a more public role, while the body's purpose is more for self-maintenance. Both roles are necessary and both are good, as long as the correct relationship is set and maintained. In essence, each of us needs to set the proper alignment of values, where our public actions and concerns are placed first, above our private needs and interests. This is how the human being is designed: public-mindedness (i.e., the mind) is a higher priority than the personal or private needs of the body.

Simplified, it means we need to learn to live for the sake of others or ‘the greater good.’ Each one of us has total responsibility for setting the public good above private well being. Religions teach prayer and meditation; these are means to strengthen the will of the mind in order to hold at bay our body’s natural self-centeredness. When the mind and body are correctly aligned, individuals willingly make sacrifices for the well-being of other family members; then families sacrifice for the well-being of their community (we pay taxes, for example). The community sacrifices for the nation (adopting a single monetary currency and pulling together during natural disasters); and nations sacrifice for the sake of the world (adhering to international standards, such as human rights, import/export regulations, safety standards in health care and food processing for example).

In a similar way, the proper relationship between men and women is essential for building and maintaining peace. This is UPF’s second Principle of Peace, known as the Pair System Principle. The husband-wife relationship is a partnership. In a loving family environment—anchored by faithful conjugal love between spouses—children are nurtured in the best possible environment. Social violence is an extension of domestic violence, such as: sexual jealousies, sibling rivalries, uncontrolled anger, and the unwillingness to make personal sacrifices. Within an environment of love, self-sacrifice is normal and natural. We see that the willingness to live for others is first learned in the family.

Lord Buddha spoke about the concord of mind and body as well as the harmony in the family when he said: "Blessing abides in the home where parents are held in respect and esteem. A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another, the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another, it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden."(Anguttara Nikaya 3-31)

Question 3: Should we incorporate peace education in the national curriculum? Please could you explain a bit?

Answer 3: Absolutely! Without a doubt and without any hesitation. But just having in it in the education system is not enough. It must also be heard in temples, mosques, and churches throughout Nepal. Peace education must be brought into the family, into the community, in the columns of newspapers, into the halls of Parliament, at every level of government, as well as in the classrooms and on college campuses. UPF has had meetings with Ministry of Education officials and we have set up a curriculum advisory team specifically for this purpose.

Question 4: How can we change the attitude of the people to bring peace and harmony in the conflict-ridden nation like Nepal?

Answer 4: It is important to understand that Nepal is not alone. Every nation on earth has a history of violence and struggle. That has been the unfortunate hallmark of our human family, since the very first human ancestors. The question of changing attitudes is critically important; in fact, it hits at the very root of the problem. The preamble to UNESCO states: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." UPF concurs with this. UPF’s strategy for peacebuilding focuses on education as the vehicle of social change. This requires discovering universal truths that are common to all religions. Then we develop a common set of values from them. The two most basic, universal principles of peace are the “Dual Purpose Principle” and the “Pair System Principle.”

Question 5: Dr. Kittel, with your years of worthy experience, how can we relate values education and peace education?

Answer 5: There is overlap between values education and peace education, more so in UPF’s frame of thinking than otherwise. Yes, we must be honest, trustworthy, responsible, cooperative, respectful, etc. The point here is that the origin of such values is derived from the mind-body unity (i.e., the Dual Purpose Principle). Let’s take one example. Trustworthiness is built when my words match my deeds—when my public-minded intentions are followed up by the right actions of my body.

However, even dealing with values education, UPF takes it a step further. We must not only build good character based on values such as trust and honesty, but we must also build moral integrity, especially regarding the relationship between men and women. Few values educators would link character education with education regarding the proper use of human sexuality. UPF does this because the family is the most fundamental institution in society. Values are formed and children's characters are built within the family—the interactions of husband and wife, and family members. The family unit is simply irreplaceable; it is the school where we learn love, and respect, and sacrifice. Misusing conjugal love is the easiest and quickest way to destroy the family, and along with it, the bedrock of social stability. Therefore, UPF includes marriage and family education as part of values education.

Put another way, how can we teach peace without teaching values? And how can we teach values without including the proper relationship between men and women? That would be like saying, “Be honest… but it’s okay to cheat on your spouse.” It is precisely because a wholesome family environment is so essential for developing good character, that we link individual values and moral character together.

Question 6: How can peace education become successful? Can you cite some examples of nations where peace education has been quite successful?

Answer 6: The UPF operates worldwide. There are too many institutions and accomplishments to name here. Our work covers educational programs, peace initiatives, UN renewal proposals, leadership training and good governance conferences, interreligious cooperation and understanding, sporting events, service-learning projects, humanitarian outreach and business ventures. It is best to visit our website: http://www.upf.org for more information.

 

Mr. B. N. Sharma is Founder-Director of CPS Higher Secondary School, Kumaripati, Lalitpur, Nepal, Vice President and Academic & Training Coordinator of the Central Committee of PABSON, Vice President of National Federation of UNESCO Associations, Clubs, Centres in Nepal & Executive Member of Peace National Committee of the Nepal National Commission for UNESCO & Member of the Advisory Committee for the Establishment of Educational Institutions as Violence-free Places of Peace.

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