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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 6, May/June 2004

Urgent situation, long-term solutions required

by Julia MacRae

It has been quite a spring for peace educators. The ongoing war in Iraq, human rights abuses in Colombia, HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, and continuing tensions and deaths in Afghanistan seem so far away. Closer to home we have despair in our city streets as poverty increases in our society. Anxiety abounds in the healthcare and education systems because of mean-spirited chronic underfunding. We see kids without the support they need and we lack confidence in "the safety net" of social services given the cutbacks. Violence and other symptoms of despair are apparent in classroom behaviour. It has never seemed more urgent to concentrate our efforts to educate a generation to choose the path of peace.

In April, many Lower Mainland residents saw the Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, from South Africa, and Ms. Shirin Abadi, from Iran, all three of whom are Nobel Peace Prize winners. For a change, we were seeing some good news on TV and in the newspapers. The Dalai Lama said "we need to be educating not just the mind but also the heart. Educating the hearts of young people leads to peace in the future." Teachers have love and awareness to share with their students. It is urgent that we find ways to educate the hearts of our students.

Let’s find ways to keep the messages of peace alive. Three opportunities present themselves: On August 19–20, 2004, Surrey PAGE (Peace and Global Education) will offer an interesting workshop called the "Living Values Education Program," which is a resource for teaching social responsibility. The first Annual Peace Education Conference is being held October 1–3, 2004, at SFU, Burnaby. It will be a collaborative community conference offering a wide range of peace and justice workshops. Secondary and post-secondary students and educators will be involved. The B.C. Teachers for Peace and Global Education (PAGE) will hold an annual conference on October 21–23, 2004, called "Respect, Restore, Revere: Justice Circles in Education," which promises to offer hands-on experience and vital networking for teachers interested in deepening their peace focus.

You may feel alone in your work as a peace educator. Teachers who want to take initiatives in their school or community may feel that they are the only ones who want to do these things, and it’s hard to find the time or energy, with all the other duties we are required to do. Take advantage of the opportunities coming up. All of us need to be creative, be supportive of one another, and be more and more aware of the needs of the world around us. We can build a culture of peace if we start on the project with our skills and passions as teachers.

Julia MacRae is a teacher on leave from Surrey.

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