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Peacebuilding through Education
Sep 1, 2012

The Fountain is partnering this month with the Peace Islands Institute of New York for the "Peacebuilding through Education: Challenges, Opportunities, Cases" conference on September 24th (details are on the ad on the inside back cover. Speaking of peace is good, but not much helpful when it remains a speech and does not yield any policy. "Peacebuilding" does not have a shortcut - it is a matter of long term investment, the main direction of which is inevitably education. There are ongoing violence and conflicts across the globe which certainly need immediate attention: Bashar al-Assad's mass murders in Syria (can anyone explain why the entire world prefers to watch for over the last seventeen months? "Immediate attention" strikes one as an ironic phrase, when suffering is ignored for so long); the Rohingya people of Arakan being destroyed in an ethno-religious conflict in Myanmar, Burma; the disastrous Muslim-Christian fight in Nigeria (why would one bomb a place of worship?) The list goes on and there are countless conflicts now in oblivion. Needless to say that bloodshed in these and other countries has to be stopped today if not yesterday, however, whatever solution we can find for them does not guarantee continuing peace. The massacre in Norway last year, the recent attack on the Sikh temple, or the shootings at a movie theatre ... these may sound like exceptional cases, however, when one digs into them one can find signs of centuries-long diseases of racism, supremacy, or a sense of false heroism that are deeply rooted. Problems which were formed over a long period cannot be solved with the snap of fingers. Mindsets that are hardwired with antagonism, bias, and stereotype can only be restored with the development and implementation of a new easy-to-digest sense of history, anthropology, literature, and religious confession.

Some of the incidents we are experiencing today might seem as if they have no precedent - this is both true and false; yes, no precedents on the scale we see today; and no, for violence is something we human beings have always been prone to. Thus, peacebuilding is not possible via revisions in educational policies alone; it is to a no lesser degree relevant to human character, virtue, and moral development. And these are some of the discussions you will find in our coverage in this issue.

The lead article focuses on value transmission in education of the young and how it is so critical for a nation to maintain its existence. Johnston McMaster discusses pluralist democracy and global citizenship as two main goals which education should be geared towards. Michael A. Samuel shares his observation of Turkish teachers inspired from Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet philosophy who migrated to South Africa with a sense of "responsibility to guide the world to a better realization of its potential fullness of being; towards a greater goal of good." Zekeriya Ozsoy warns teachers that an imbalanced conduct of reward might shift the motivation of some students to material prizes and cause them lose their intrinsic capacity to strive and achieve.

Two special contributions from Nigeria give us hope that sound-thinking leaders and scholars might enable this African star to be rescued from the current violence based on religious and ethnic differences.