Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lidasan: Peace Education in the Philippines


THE start of the colonial period, with the fall of Granada in 1492, signified the end of the Reconquista (the Reconquista is the term given about the battles between the Christian Kingdoms and Muslim Moors with the goal to take over the Iberian Peninsula) and signaled one of the most significant cultural and religious conflicts that still echoes today.

This time, however, the conflicts have also modernized. Along with the Cold War, ethnic and religious violent conflicts have reemerged as one of the most significant threats to the internal stability of many countries. In the Philippines, particularly, this has led to strife in communities within our provinces.

Moving forward to the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first, we have seen a renewed emphasis on expressions of nationalism. Hallmarks of these is in the definition of religious and ethnic identity. The same is true in the case of the Bangsamoro struggle of the right to self-determination.

These points I raised were my main reflections regarding one of the key activities of the Al Qalam Institute last week.

The Salaam TWG workshop on Peace Curriculum Development is part of our thrust in providing culture and values formation. This was designed for NSTP students to tackle peace education. In the said workshop, we recognized that there are so many facets to consider: Culture, society and religion all play roles in how we should deliver instruction to our youth.

The discussions in the workshop led us to the understanding that true spirituality in service should start with planting these seeds in the youth. They say that truly great men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit under. Hence, this legacy is what we wish to ensure with this curriculum development activity, as well as in other peace-building measures.

Dr. Jeffrey Milligan, from Florida State University, USA, was one of the participants in the said workshop. He shared to us few notes from his book entitled, “Islamic Identity, Postcoloniality, and Educational Policy.” He wrote, “what, we might ask, has education to do with such matters? Surely armed rebellions and terrorism are military and law enforcement problems, not the responsibility of schools. Surely political questions of independence, democratization, or human rights are the purview of political leaders, not teachers.”

He further wrote, “Questions of religious belief and attitudes are widely seen as off-limits for public education in many modern democratic states. What does education have to do with any of this? A lot.”

I agree with him. There is an urgent need to strengthen our peace education in our schools and universities. In the Bangsamoro context, we need to have a strong Islamic education that will help our people become active and responsible citizens of our Republic. Empowerment of our own school system, such as the Madrasahs, and giving proper support to them are critical for our growth.

We have a long way to go to come up with a responsive educational system that fits our own local context. We need to have teachers who know the value of peace education. We also need to equip them with the right materials and framework.

I do hope that we are able to come up with a framework that fits our objectives best. The pursuit of peace in all sectors must start from laying strong foundations in our youth, and peace education is one way to achieve that.


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