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The Road to 'Reclaiming Childhood'
an article by Blog of Standing Together to Enable Peace

Violence is not an inherent human trait but is instead imbibed during the stages of education and socialization. So why then, can peace not be taught? Standing Together to Enable Peace (STEP) believes in working with children and the youth, who are more accepting of new ideas and thus we conduct workshops, conflict resolution trainings as well as teacher training to further peace education. We firmly believe that children in conflict with the law cannot be ignored as their actions are overtly harmful to themselves and to others.

click on photo to enlarge

STEP therefore began conducting workshops at Prayas, India, an observation home for boys under 18 years of age and attempted to get them to introspect on their problems and on the consequences of their actions on not only their personal lives but the community/society and eventually the nation. Through these workshops, issues of physical violence, gender, identity, bullying and aggression have been raised by means of role plays, games, activities and reflections.

At the beginning, daunted by tales of morbid crime, we were cautious; our hearts weak and our agenda peace. However, on the very first day, our apprehensions were put to rest as we learnt an important lesson – All children are innocent, no matter where they come from. This was the beginning of a very challenging rollercoaster ride where STEP went through a catharsis.

While this was not our first experience with children from low income groups, it was a first of a kind. We heard stories of broken homes, drugs and alcohol, rape and murder – none of which should be a part of the vocabulary of a 13 year old. What shocked us, however, was that these children were capable of being polite, obedient and respectful. It led us to think there must be something lacking in the outside world which forces them to adorn the protective gear of a hardened criminal.

Going back to where we started, peace begins with one’s self and moves on to larger communities and then the nation. It is the responsibility of adults to provide safe places and opportunities for children to grow. In our failure to do so, are we building a generation of criminals?

Resulting from our experiences, we dedicate our annual festival, Jashn-e-Aman to Reclaiming Childhood. The agenda is not to preach peace but to make the youth think why they make the choices they do and how their choices impact them individually, their community, their country and the world at large.

Jashn-e-Aman this year will take place in Imphal, Manipur and New Delhi from the 21st of September to 2nd October 2011.


Question(s) related to this article:

What is the best way to teach peace to children?,

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Maria Montessori believed that peace was innate within children. Her timeless educational philosophy was developed around this basic understanding. Perhaps all we need to do as teachers is to provide stimulating learning environments that validate this knowing and understanding and nurture it. We may not have to actually teach it,  Sharing peace-building stories gently attends to this. Strong, creative and imaginative peace-building characters who focus upon win-win and have faith in peace being possible are at the centre of the story plots. In Hassaun Ali-Jones Bey's (Boundless Gratitude ) unique and mesmerising story, Black Ink is such a character who bravely crosses the universe seeking validation of what he knows in his heart. The magical character also models all the important peace-building values, understandings and actions needed for peace-building. I believe also that peace-building must be modelled and the whole teaching-learning environment should reflect similar values, understandings and is the primary focus of the Save the Children Australia UN Global Peace School Program upon which I am presently fortunate to be working. . ...more.

This report was posted on September 16, 2011.