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GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR A CULTURE OF PEACE

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Building Peace Through Education In Pakistan
an article by Robin Brooke-Smith for Gandhara (abridged)

Awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Youzafzai is a glimmer of hope for building lasting peace in Pakistan through quality liberal education. . . Malala's inspiring story has attracted global attention, but I feel a key lesson of her struggle often gets less attention.


Robin Brooke-Smith talking to students wearing the distinct green blazers of Edwardes College.

click on photo to enlarge

The lesson is that all the weapons and military might in the world will not restore peace to Pakistan unless it partners with the world to invest in an education sector capable of teaching the country's tens of millions of students a new worldview and skills compatible with the contemporary economy and global currents.

After suffering tremendously at the hands of extremists and as a result of military operations during the past decade, Pakistanis have at last woken up to the dangers posed by extremism to their security, livelihoods, and even to the very existence of their country. . .

I saw this storm brewing when I was principal of Edwardes College in Peshawar in the late 1990s. The ancient city is the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and I had a ringside seat to the beginnings of Islamist extremism there as the shadows of terror lengthened in the run-up to September 11 and beyond.

Edwardes College is an old church foundation and a remarkable place, whose founding aim was to create a “community of harmony and peace.” With 95 percent Muslim and 5 percent Christian students, the frontier between Islam and Christianity ran right through the college.

Even in those days of relative calm and peace in Pakhtunkhwa, there were signs of tempests to come. We witnessed the rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, often with the acquiescence of Pakistan's powerful military.

My main challenge at the college was to promote and preserve the values of liberal education. While the society outside the college fence was being rapidly radicalized through violence, the media, and political mobilization, we concentrated on promoting free thinking.

As the college celebrated its centenary in 2000, another of my major challenges was to make it co- educational. I will never forget the support I received from Muslim and Christian parents who took great pride in adorning their daughters in the green and white uniforms of one of the best institutions in their province.

Many of the parents, politicians, and officials helped us to counter the rumors and venom from radical mullahs and their sympathizers that the media spewed against us. I also had to constantly battle against the Diocese of Peshawar, who wanted to control the college because it was seen as a prized possession for Peshawar's impoverished Christian community. . .

Pakistan now must build a peaceful future rooted in the strengths and preferences of its people. Investment in liberal education is essential for building peace and a lasting culture of tolerance and reconciliation.

Robin Brooke-Smith is the author of Storm Warning: Riding the Crosswinds in the Pakistan-Afghan Borderlands (London, I.B. Tauris, 2012).

[Thank you to the Newsletter of the Global Campaign for Peace Education for alerting us to this article]

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What is the relation between peace and education?,

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Letter from Mohatma Gandhi to Maria Montessori.

To Madame Montessori

Even as you, out of your love for children, are endeavoring to teach children, through your numerous institution, the best that can be brought out of them, even so, I hope that it will be possible not only for the children of the wealthy and the well-to-do, but for the children of paupers to receive training of this nature. You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have the struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.

Mohatma Gandhi, Young India, 19-11-''31


This report was posted on November 24, 2014.