Religious Education Conference in Palestine at the Peace Centre/Bethlehem
The Arab Educational Institute – member organization of Pax Christi International in Palestine–organized a conference on the 4th and the 5th of March 2011 at the Peace Centre Hall in Bethlehem under the patronage of Mr. Abdallah Shakarnah – Director of the Ministry of Education office in Bethlehem. The conference title was “How can it inspire moral courage & leadership among Palestinian youths?" During the discussions some international speakers made comparative presentations about Bradford U.K situation. Some religious figures, Christian and Muslim religious education teachers from both government and private schools attended the conference.
At the beginning of the conference Mr. Fuad Giacaman – AEI General Director delivered a welcoming speech in which he said, “This conference aims at communicating Palestine message of history, culture, cause, love, freedom, peace & Christian/Muslim Living Together values among our Palestinian people and the whole world. He continued to say, “This conference coincides and comes amidst the bright horizons of hope resulting from the winds of change & reform, freedom, openness, national unity that were revived by our Arab youths in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya after decades of Arab silence, despair and frustration”.
Then Mr. Abdallah Shakarnah – greeted in his speech the participants and the organizers and said, “Religions, prophets and apostles came to preach the whole mankind and their aim is the same which is calling for believing in God, love, tolerance and reconciliation among all human beings. He also referred to the important role of teachers and educators schools, communities as well as homes in strengthening values of participation, mutual respect, raising awareness and building national unity.
Mr. Shakarnah spoke highly about the role of the Ministry of Education which believed in such a practice. It allocated an equal number of class periods for both Christian and Islamic religious education lessons. The Ministry of Education accepted also the present Christian and Islamic Religious Education syllabus.
The first session of the conference started by Father Dr. Peter Madros – Vice President of the Catholic Council of Catechism in the Middle East. Then Sheikh Mahir ‘Assaf–religious education teacher at the SOS school in Bethlehem spoke about the Palestinian curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education. He also showed a presentation about
“The uniqueness in our educational system is necessary in achieving our Palestinian ambitions: independence, freedom, justice and equality.
In the second session Thom Geurts from Holland and Brigit Rays talked about the meanings of Sumud or steadfastness. They also gave a comparative presentation about the relations between the adherents of the three monotheistic religions and the importance of strengthening the relations and the mutual respect among them.
Dr. Barkat Fawzi and Mr. Abdallah Shakarnah from Ministry of Education and some teachers from the government and private schools in Bethlehem and Ramallah areas gave their presentations and papers.
This conference included a series of presentations and discussions about “How can religious education inspire our young people to be more steadfast. The discussion focused on “A Moment of Truth”Kairus Document of Palestine which was written by the Heads of Christian churches and some laypeople in the midst of the Palestine suffering. Dr. Barakat Fawzi – Former Coordinator of Christian & Islamic Religious Education textbooks at the Ministry of Education and Dr. Toine Van Teefelen – AEI Development Director, both emphasized the importance of this document in urging and supporting our people sumud or steadfastness and hope and working hard in peaceful resistance against occupation in order to stop its injustices and aggression.
This document shows the way how to reach our goal in restoring our land, freedom, dignity & independence. The Kairus Document calls upon world churches to be in solidarity with our Palestinian truth and suffering especially the expropriation of our lands on the expenses of building Israeli settlements and the separation wall.
Dr. Walid Mustafa – a lecturer at Bethlehem University/a project coordinator at AEI and Hakan Bengtsson from the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem spoke about them visions of a future religious education in our schools.
They both focused on the importance of respecting religious differences and they called for a modern image for the religious homilies at churches and mosques.
Hakan Bengtsson-gave a comparative study about the vision of religious education in Sweden. On the other hand Dr. Barakat Fawzi spoke about Religious Education in Palestine which aims at raising up our Palestinian children on faith and obedience in God. He also called upon our youths to be committed to moral values & doing good deeds.
During the religious education conference discussions Mr. Sleiman Sleiman, Mrs. Huweida Muslih, Mrs. Raeda She’bi, Miss. Reem Hamdan and Mr. Mussallam Sha’lan-religious education teachers in governments and privates schools gave live presentations on their testimonies and experiences in teaching religious education at their schools.
Miss. Jennifer Salameh–AEI youth leader gave a summary of the youths opinions and ideas about religious education. Mary Grey and Riet Bons – Storm, international guest speakers gave their evlauatory presentations on the whole sessions. At the end of the conference, AEI Sumud Choir group presented folkloric and heritage songs.