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Character Education

Follow-up to Seminar on Character Education and HIV/AIDS Prevention

We received an amazing response to UPF's July 2, 2006, seminar on Character-Based HIV/AIDS Prevention. As India has been declared by the UN to be the country with the highest number of HIV/AIDs infections, people are truly alarmed and want to know how to deal with this problem.

Dr. Shankar Chowdhury, UNESCO Programme Officer on HIV/AIDS and Education, seeks a long-term working relationship with UPF since our approach is very suitable to the Indian mentality and culture. Dr. Chowdhury is acutely aware of the need to involve religious leaders in an effective prevention program, but he found it difficult to do so in the past and is looking forward to working with us.

Mr. B. P. Singh, former Home Secretary, presently chancellor of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, suggested that we involve the religious educators in developing an interfaith character education program, since this is their passion and field of expertise. Religious leaders will support the initiative by endorsing programs that are not in conflict with their religious tenets and by participating in major events, but they are too busy to be involved on a regular basis.

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, the Secretary General of the South Asia Interreligious Council on HIV/AIDS, as well as the President of the India Interfaith Council Coalition on HIV/AIDS in Chennai, is searching for ways to make this Interfaith Council more effective. He solicited recommendations to be presented at the upcoming UNESCO conference in Toronto on this topic. He believes that we should not only tolerate but celebrate each other's religious differences and work together to solve society’s problems.

Dr. Robert Kittel discussed the proposal of setting up an Interfaith Council with senior staff of Sri Mata Amritananadamayi Devi’s main ashram in Kerala. Although no commitment was made, they welcomed the idea and suggested that he meet the director of their hospital and also contact their own television station, Amrit TV, which won 15 awards for values-based coverage last year.

Prof. M. P. Kakar, Professor of the Lingaya’s Institute of Management and Technology, Faridabad, attended the UPF seminar representing the Guwahati UNESCO Association. He was deeply moved by the seminar and has the interest as well as expertise to work with us on developing a character education curriculum. His head office is arranging various programs in Guwahati with Dr. Robert Kittel as the main speaker on July 24-25.

Dr. Y.P. Gupta, who worked for the HIV/AIDS program under CARE for ten years, offered his expertise to us; he holds a Ph.D. in statistics—in program design, management and evaluation.

The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation referred Dr. Sarvesh Kumar for consultation with us. Dr. Kumar runs a medical clinic in old Delhi that has been dealing with AIDS patients for many years. Last year, he organized a World AIDS Day rally with the help of YMCA, but this year they want to hold a three-day seminar from December 1 to 3 instead. Dr. Kumar arranged for Dr. Kittel and me to meet with Mark Clive, Assoc. Secretary General of YMCA, and Arnold James, member of the YMCA Board of Directors. They were deeply moved by Dr. Kittel’s insights into the HIV/AIDS problems and how to develop an effective prevention program that incorporates basic family values inherent to Indian culture. They requested Dr. Kittel to speak to their board of directors and suggest ways to structure their program so that it will be in line with the YMCA’s moral standards.

Mr. Anil John Jacob, secretary of Navadarshana, was impressed by our work with schools and colleges and he is going to help us arrange programs on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS Prevention at Delhi University North Campus.

Dr. Subhash Chandra, Executive Director of the World Peace Centre, and Prof. S.K. Gupta, Member of the Board of Amity University, worked out a detailed proposal for a monthly Ambassadors for Peace education program to be started on August 6 and a one-day seminar co-sponsored by Amity University and UPF on September 21. They hope for Amity and UPF to collaborate with each other.

Hon. Eduardo Faleiro, commissioner for Non-resident Indian Affairs, has included ‘Family Values’ as an important topic of the NRI conference on July 22. He will put forth suggestions of what the government, civil society and religious leaders can do to strengthen family values.

We deeply appreciate the sincere efforts and commitment of our Ambassadors for Peace to further the cause in India and thank you for your wholehearted cooperation.

Note: World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. Government and health officials often observe the event with speeches or forums on topics related to AIDS.

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