Supporting Dialogue In Challenging Contexts
10 May 2016
Pakistan is an Islamic Republic with a majority Muslim population that lives side-by-side with minority groups including Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians. Their immediate neighbour, India, has a majority Hindu population with sizable Christian, Sikh and Muslim minorities.
Over the past several years, religious and sectarian conflict has increased in each country, which often spills over into tensions between the two nations. Local extremist groups in Pakistan frequently engage in violence against minority groups, including minority sects of Islam. In India a current of Hindu nationalism has left religious minorities feeling isolated. In addition to these internal problems, the countries have fought three wars since they each achieved independence in 1947, and skirmishes continue to result in violence on both sides of the border.
In April, the Pakistani High Commissioner to India emphasised the need for the two countries to engage in meaningful dialogue to bring understanding and issue resolution.
Our global education programme helps students to be resolute in the face of narratives that may feed into the development of violent extremist ideologies. By participating in global learning and dialogue opportunities, classes learn about one other, and explore the strong roots of openness and diversity in their own cultural and religious traditions.
We have a long history of working in both India and Pakistan to facilitate dialogue between students with different cultural and religious perspectives. We aim to produce lasting attitudinal change by producing a deep understanding through dialogue, an approach that is vital for peace building. So far this year, students from Pakistan and India have connected with one another 14 times. They have also connected with schools from different communities within their own countries, and with their peers around the world. Through these experiences, they are empowered to confidently navigate difference, both within and between their own very diverse communities.
Below is what one Indian student said after connecting with students in Pakistan:
[The programme] has changed my behaviour towards the diverse cultures of my country...it has not only filled my soul with values but also helped me to make friends. Through the online learning community I am able to communicate with many students of different schools with whom I have done a videoconference, and even those with whom I haven't....it has changed me a lot.
In this particular videoconference, students had in-depth discussions on some challenging issues, such as politics, religion, and fundamentalism. Our facilitator commented on the strength of the questions and critical thinking skills displayed by students, and the quality of the discussion surrounding the challenge of multiculturalism, and conflicts that are linked to religion.
If you would like to learn more about how your school could take part in our free global education and dialogue programme, and how your students could benefit, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.