Posted on May 31st, 2012

PRESS RELEASE-Issued by:  Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS)

A public lecture on “Peace Education” was delivered by internationally renowned lawyer and scholar, Judge, Sri Lankabhimanya, C.G. Weeramantry, Former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) on Tuesday, 15th May, 2012. 

The welcome address at the lecture was delivered by Mr. Gritakumar Chitty, International Lawyer and Former Assistant Secretary “”…” General for United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Executive Director of the Kadirgamar Institute welcomed the distinguished audience that consisted of academia, educators, security forces, government officials, students from higher education institutes, and the diplomatic community. Mr. Abeyagoonasekera said that, “peace education as a young and vital subject offers many opportunities for present Sri Lanka. Peace education constitutes one of the most vital components for promoting reconciliation. It addresses the issues at the centre of the reconciliation process, acceptance of the ‘other’, and overcoming collective prejudice”. The transformative imperative, with its power to usher in profound changes in ways of thinking, views, values, behaviours, relationships, and the structures that make up public order must, therefore, be placed at the centre of the peace education”.

Commencing the lecture on “ƒ”¹…”peace education’, Judge C.G. Weeramantry said that since the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka after three decades of conflict, peace education is the most urgent need of the hour. The speech of Judge Weeramantry revolved around the significance of peace education in promoting cross-cultural awareness and as a source of empowerment. In its initial phase, peace education needs to be introduced into schools at all levels with instructions to children about their duties of making whatever contribution they can towards building a peaceful Sri Lanka over the ashes of war. Judge Weeramantry also made a reference to his evidence before the LLRC in which he stressed the importance of peace education in all its facets and emphasized the need for the education authorities to find a place for it in all school curricula despite the great pressure exerted by the so called “ƒ”¹…”bread and butter subjects’ that aims only to improve children’s prospects of employment. In thoughts and lives of great philosophers of peace, from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Confucius in the ancient world, centuries down to Gandhi and Martin Luther King in modern times, there is a range of philosophers and peace workers whose lives would be an inspiration to our children who are the citizens of tomorrow.  

Peace education as a process is embedded with a responsibility to facilitate cross-cultural understanding among children. It acts as an inter-cultural bridge by inculcating knowledge on cultural backgrounds of all sections of society and all major religions in Sri Lanka. At the same time, it is indispensable to provide each child a firm grounding in his or her own religion. The fact that these religions had co-existed side by side in total peace and harmony for several centuries and that the people have participated in each other’s religious festival: Christmas, Wesak, Ramazan and Deepawali are evidences for the great respect in which all these religions are held by all members of the population. Therefore, inter religious and cross-cultural education is a vital element that needs urgent attention on a national scale. Furthermore, cross-cultural and inter religious education suggest an introduction to the scriptures of all the religions and school children ought to be introduced to some basic readings from the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, the Bible and the Quran. Besides, in order to enhance inter-communal bonding peace education involves exchange programmes between children from different parts of the country especially across the conflict affected areas. For example, after such an engagement with undergraduates at a training workshop, the participants declared of lifelong friendship after completion of the week long session. It is remarkable since at the beginning they showed great reluctance even to speak to each other. Peace education involves education on reconciliation and forgiveness for millions of children across the country that has known nothing but war and have bitter memories of the sufferings experienced by them and their relatives as a result of the conflict, Judge Weeramantry further stated.

Peace education as a means of empowerment points at each and everyone’s contribution to peace building falsifying the widely held perceptions that peace is a concern of single government, judges or system of law. Peace should be the collective responsibility of every citizen however its essential to promote peace that instigate a positive idea that every individual could contribute something to the bigger efforts on peace building. “Each one of us must carry the message of peace into the communities to which we belong and radiate this message of peace especially to the younger generation” Judge Weeramantry also said. The nexus between peace education and religion reiterates the consequences of overcoming the causes of conflict such as greed, anger, jealousy and desire for power. Thus, through the proliferation of knowledge, peace education aims at conflict prevention which is far more important than the resolution of conflicts.

Peace education is every individual’s responsibility. By disseminating awareness of the interests of the other, of the future generations, our role as a trustee of the future, particularly in handling natural resources, peace education smoothens the progress on the path towards Sri Lanka, the united and harmonious country it once was in the past. Judge Weeramantry concluded by saying “Peace education is a wonderful field of instruction which can really illuminate our education system and give hope, love and happiness to our children and the generations to come”.

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  1. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    “……… Judge Weeramantry also said. The nexus between peace education and religion reiterates the consequences of overcoming the causes of conflict such as greed, anger, jealousy and desire for power. Thus, through the proliferation of knowledge, peace education aims at conflict prevention which is far more important than the resolution of conflicts”.

    This is so very true and not only SriLanka but all other nations should introduce Peace Education into their primary and secondary school curriculums. What a wonderful world it would be if we could inculcate most if not all these values in the coming generations. Being a nation guided with buddhist values, introducing a subject like this is not going to be difficult. So the minister of education please take serious note of this proposal and take the lead.

  2. samurai Says:

    Ever since the Portuguese intruded into Sri Lanka in 1505, attempts have been made to force – feed Christianity on the unsuspecting Sinhala Buddhist public. The Portuguese had no reservations about their dislike for the indigenous religions particularly Buddhism and Hinduism, which they considered as ‘Pagan’ religions. They forbade the practice of all other religions except Christianity in the areas under their control in Sri Lanka. Destroyed all Buddhist Temples and constructed Catholic Churches on destroyed Buddhist Temple sites.Queyroz, the Portuguese Historian provides full details in his book.

    A survey by the Dept. of Archaeology particularly in the Western Province would reveal these details.

    Any Reconciliation between various communities in Sri Lanka must necessarily involve payment of compensation and an apology by the Roman Catholic Church to the Buddhists of this country for being an accomplice to the plunder and destruction of Buddhist Temples by the Portuguese Colonial Administration.The Hindus and Muslims have similar claims against the Portuguese.

    The Jews have called on the world never to forget the Holocaust.

    Likewise We Sri Lankans must never forget the damage and atrocities that the western colonial countries committed in this country for nearly 500 years ( 1505 – 1948). A small percentage of local people who embraced the religion of the foreign conquerors for various favours may wish to forget this dark chapter, but the rest is unlikely to do so.

    If the purpose of Peace Education is to white wash European Christian Crimes in Sri Lanka, among others, then it would tantamount to a futile exercise.

    Remember the saying of George Santayana ( Those who forget history are condemned to live through it again)

    Teaching all four religions to children at a tender age will only confuse young minds and lead to intra – family conflicts.
    Young children need religious education that provides certainty in respect to religious beliefs and not doubt and uncertainty.
    Once they have become adults they can be allowed freedom to exercise choice.

    Christian Missionaries through the Missionary Schools in Sri Lanka have always been targeting young Buddhist children to take them away from their traditional religion and loyalty to their Buddhist heritage and country.

    The countries most suitable for the so called ‘ Peace Education’ are war mongering countries of the West which are eternally at war with the rest of the non – Christian world.

    But we never hear of ‘ Peace Education’ in USA, England, France and other NATO countries. We never hear of Buddhism being taught to young christian children in European countries on a mandatory basis as part of Peace Education.

    Until we hear of such measures being adopted in countries that proclaim Human Rights, Multiculturalism in the loudest manner but rarely practice what they preach, this little ‘ Dhammadipa’ of ours would be better off without Peace Education.

    Sri Lankans cannot be blamed for suspecting foreigners ( and their lackeys) for espousing concepts having roots in the western and biblical traditions given the tragic incidents and heinous crimes committed during 500 years of western colonial rule.

  3. pol.sambola6 Says:

    That is a brilliant analysis.
    Well done.

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