Education, Human Rights, Peace

Executive Director of the Geneva Centre: Education constitutes an important building block to counter violent extremist narratives

GENEVA, May 21 2019 - Equal access to education can open vital spaces for inclusiveness, reconciliation and dialogue as well as address prevailing toxic narratives fuelling violent and extremist ideologies, said the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy at a conference organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The conference entitled “Promoting Peace Together” was held on 21 May at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The event focused on two historic documents related to peace-making, namely the document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” jointly signed by HH Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar His Eminence Ahmad Al-Tayib in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on 4 February 2019, and ‘Education for Peace, in a Multi-Religious World: A Christian Perspective’ which was officially launched at the end of the present event by the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).

The Executive Director of the Geneva Centre served as a panellist at the session on “Education for Peace in a Multi-Religious World” and delivered a statement on the role of education in countering extremist narratives. The panel was composed of the following high-level experts: (i) Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, Bureau Chief for Islam and Secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, PCID; (ii) Dr Clare Amos, Honorary Director of Lay Discipleship in the Diocese in Europe, Anglican Communion; (iii) HE Archbishop Professor Dr Job of Telmessos, Ecumenical Patriarchate – Permanent Delegation of the WCC, and Dean of the Institute of Postgraduate Studies of Orthodox Theology in Chambésy, and; (iv) Ms Maria Lucia Uribe, Director Arigatou International Geneva.

At the opening ceremony, which was also attended by the Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE to UN in Geneva HE Aalya Al-Shehhi, the General Secretary of the WCC Reverend Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and the Secretary of the PCID, HE Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, in addition to the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Ambassador Jazairy, paid tribute to the UAE for hosting a meeting between HH Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

The moderator of the conference Ms Anne Glynn-Mackoul, WCC Executive Committee member and Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (USA), felt that the document on Human Fraternity was of comparable importance with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE stated that the Joint Document on Human Fraternity and WCC’s and PCID’s joint document on “Education for Peace, in a Multi-Religious World: A Christian Perspective” expressed the importance of fraternity, peaceful co-existence between peoples of different religions and cultures and the need to promote world peace. She stated that these two documents mark the era of a new chapter in Muslim-Christian dialogue and highlighted that the UAE was proud to have hosted the historical meeting of 4 February 2019.

In his statement, Ambassador Jazairy highlighted the need to address ominous threats and divisive narratives descending on modern societies in Arab and Western societies alike. The rise of violent extremism on the one hand and of militant forms of nationalism and populism on the other represent a threat to multicultural societies, human well-being as well as world peace and stability.

Of great concern is of course the exposure of frustrated or marginalised youth to terrorist and violent extremist groups. They lack religious or ideological awareness and fall easy prey to evil manipulations,” the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre underlined.

In times of community fragmentation, equal access to education – he said – provides “fertile ground to sow and grow, in the minds of the upcoming generations, the seeds of human rights and of equal citizenship rights. It instils a sense of solidarity and builds resilience among youths to address divisive and xenophobic narratives.”

Ambassador Jazairy highlighted the importance of providing supportive settings and safe learning environments fostering social inclusion, inclusiveness, empathy and equal citizenship rights. “This will help to promote the immunity of youths against the rise of extremist forces and the devastating impact of hate speech,” he highlighted.

The Executive Director of the Geneva Centre likewise stated that religious authorities and lay leaders of different faiths and cultures have a responsibility to correct the unscrupulous misrepresentations of the values and beliefs. “Religious leaders can play an important role in providing counselling to address radicalist thoughts and to promote the values of tolerance, coexistence and dialogue. Abrahamic religions have 90% theological similarities and only 10% differences. Let all people of good will become more aware of commonalities and express tolerance if not empathy for the 10% diversity margin,” he said.

In conclusion, Ambassador Jazairy paid tribute to the inspiring role of the United Arab Emirates in hosting the historic meeting of 4 February 2019 between HH Pope Francis and His Eminence Ahmad Al-Tayib.

He referred to the Joint Document on Human Fraternity signed on this occasion as well as to the Outcome Declaration on “Moving Towards Greater Spiritual Convergence Worldwide in Support of Equal Citizenship Rights” adopted as an outcome to the 25 June 2018 World Conference on religions and equal citizenship rights and the Geneva Centre’s publication on “Human Rights: Enhancing Equal Citizenship Rights in Education“ that were three important starting-points to enhance the role of education in addressing violent extremism, intolerance and social exclusion. “Through such inspiring texts, one can restore and spread a culture of tolerance and peace,” he concluded.

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