Education for Peace

Education for peace

A great necessity
An instrument for building peace
Education
Development requirements
Peace builders
Tools and Strategies
Support
 
 
A great necessity
 
On an almost daily basis the Egyptian media reports about tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt; expressions of anger, clashes and too often there are reports about people being killed.

Arab opinion makers are often negative about Western policies and culture and in particular about the U.S. A substantial number of Muslims believe that Islam is superior to all other religions. Some Western Christians as well as those who advocate an extreme form of freedom of expression and those who try to reduce the influence of religious beliefs as far as possible, however, are inclined to do the same [Click here]. A substantial number of opinion makers in the West, including secular and Christian political activists, politicians and even some scholars, produce predominantly negative reports about Muslims and Islam. Polemics are widespread and are not limited to the boundaries of countries. Furthermore, polemics bolster extremism leading to people falling back on their own religious or cultural community and opposing the acceptance of the other, as well as rejecting pluralism and peaceful relations between members of different religious and cultural communities.

Sectarian strife in Egypt stems from a variety of causes; socio-economic issues, culture, legal boundaries, inequality, etc. Many conflicts that arise are sparked by issues that are unrelated to religion, however when religious arguments are brought into the equation problems develop to take on a sectarian nature that divides those involved further and increases the religious divide. The parties involved primarily focus on superficial partisan reporting, seeking support for their position (strongly image and culture related) and often believing that attacking the other and minimizing the concerns of others helps their cause, not seeing that, on the contrary, polemics can also serve to harm their cause.

Polemics, both within and out with media reporting deepen existing tensions and tend to make them worse, at times even resulting in violent conflicts [Click here].

Sectarian strife is, of course, not limited to Egypt. Even though our current material is heavily, but not entirely, focused on Egypt we have a database that contains material with a relevance that goes far beyond the geographical limits of the Egyptian state. This is something which is also reflected through our network that extends to other countries in the Arab World.

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An instrument for building peace
 
At Arab-West Report we strive to:
  • Make different views from the Arab world available to a wider public,
  • Help Christians, and other non-Muslims, to understand Islamic culture; and also to help them to understand Muslims, how Muslims live and how they present Islam,
  • Help Muslims to understand non-Muslims, how these non-Muslims live and present their faith.
  • Provide a free and open forum where discussions can take place between members of different religions and cultures, with particular attention being paid to Arab participants who are often given insufficient space and do not readily act on opportunities to express their views in a written format.

By ‘Understanding’ we mean:

  • Understanding the culture, concerns and fears of the other, and encouraging good neighborly relations,
  • Challenging stereotypes,
  • Making background information and analysis available to citizens of Egypt and other countries,

This background information is characterized by:

  • Promoting transparency and integrity in reporting by media, government, private institutions and private people which is a prerequisite for a transition to a democratic society,
  • Presenting the facts instead of emotive arguments,
  • Disentangling socio-economic problems from religious ones,
  • Explaining that dialogue does not mean putting forward just one's own beliefs but improving communication,
  • Discussing sensitive subjects such as human rights, conversion, religiously motivated violence and other issues, in ways that create understanding, and thus uniting people without the need to always agree,
  • Showing similarities in cultures and beliefs and not only differences,
  • Realizing that we find biases toward other cultures in every culture, including in one's own society
  • Providing a media critique with the purpose of encouraging the media to inform, and not create division.
  • Showing the harmful effects of incorrect information which creates anger, conflicts and counters the values of peace, understanding and pluralism
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Education
 
At Arab-West Report we endeavor to:
  • Provide a unique collection of material and information that is not available anywhere else which includes both reviews from Arabic media as well as our own reporting
  • Make our material available for use by students in Middle Eastern Studies, Political Science, Journalism, Islamic Studies and Christian theology.
  • Encourage students to write papers and PhDs on subjects we cover and that include our material. Reports are placed in our database and can be used by later students to build on earlier work.
  • Provide internships whereby Muslims and non-Muslims, Egyptians and non-Egyptians, are encouraged to work harmoniously together,
  • Assist institutions to use AWR documentation in their curricula,
  • Give lectures that spread our message,
  • Provide background information for reports and articles in various media,
  • Promote the realization that many crucial problems that spark conflict suffer acutely from the non-sustainability of memory which enhances the risk of manipulation by interest groups. Stockpiling Arab media reviews, writing our own reports and networking with other electronic data repositories helps to create a vital contribution to sustaining accurate memory [Click here].
  • Link reporting about current events to background documentation that helps authors to present events and incidents in their proper context [under development]
  • Stimulate a culture of pluralism [see also AWR interview with HRH Prince el-Hassan bin-Talaal, click here],
  • Produce experienced multinational staff with an excellent network,
  • Provide Arab-West Report in Arabic and English for Western and Arabic audiences with the same message of opposing stereotypes and other forms of misinformation.

For peace building we need to build up a mutual respect and understanding of people from different cultures and beliefs which in turn requires a knowledge of different cultures.

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Development requirements
 
Peaceful relations within societies are a necessary requirement for socio-economic development [Click here]
 
Peace builders
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We seek to:
  • Build long term relations that are built on mutual understanding,
  • Listen but never accept statements at face value and respond with exploratory questions,
  • Always take the context of each individual situation into account.
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Tools and Strategies
 
Stereotypes add to frustrations and even anger in anyone who feels misunderstood and misjudged. Arab-West Report provides a clear message not to contribute to such misunderstanding and misjudgment. We therefore provide reviews and translations of Arabic authors representing many different opinions about a wide range of subjects found in the Arab and Islamic world; opinions we may sympathize with and opinions that we may not agree with. But they nevertheless help us to understand the wide range of thoughts that exist in the Arab and Islamic world. We do not reformulate these many different opinions, but let the authors speak for themselves through English language reviews of the articles written for the Arabic media.

We add to these media reviews our own investigative and analytical journalism. We teach students to develop a critical attitude toward reporting and help them to analyze various articles. Some of our students have continued with peace education after having first obtained a thorough knowledge and understanding of the interaction between Western and Arab cultures [Click here].

The Arab-West Report collection is the only one of its kind that is primarily based on Arabic media reporting about Muslim-Christian relations and relations between the Islamic and the non-Islamic worlds. All articles in the collection have been reviewed in English (systematic reviews in Arabic are being developed), categorized in a subject index, listing all the names of persons and organizations mentioned in these media reports.

All data collected is placed in a database that is used to promote peace building and oppose violence and conflict. Efforts are being made to make this archive more widely available by making it meet western library standards and developing its search functions.

Upon request, we are able to provide institutions with a selection of articles and reports that suit their educational needs.

We cannot continue this work without your help!

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Support
 
Please support our work by:
  • Helping us build programs for education, including conflict resolution studies; advancing the use of our material to educate youth to become ambassadors of peace, seeking concrete solutions to tensions between Muslims and Christians, and Islamic and non-Islamic cultures.
  • Placing and supervising the work of interns
  • Developing the search functions of the electronic library and making them accessible to partner organizations (www.enawu.org)

Any financial assistance or specialist expertise is not only highly appreciated but also vital to helping us continue our work.

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