We are pleased to announce the online global symposium TRANSFORMING EDUCATION: Ethics Education for Learning to Live Together, which will take place on 22-23 November 2021. We invite educators, policymakers, faith-based and civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to join us to reflect, collaborate and prompt action to transform education together!
The G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20) offers an annual platform for religious, faith and interfaith organisations communities to constructively engage with the agendas set by the G20 leaders. For 2021, the G20’s agenda focuses on People Planet Prosperity, and the IF20 dedicates its reflection and dialogue on the theme of A Time to Heal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in worldwide educational systems. In particular, during the mass school closures, and the attempted shifts to hybrid modes of learning, significant inadequacies and drastic global disparities in students’ access to quality education have been brought to light. Alongside these concerns is recognition of sufferings (material, physical, social-emotional, mental, spiritual) endured by children and young people throughout the lockdowns and a striking gap in the provisions of online learning facilities and resources between higher and lower income countries. All these have further aggravated an existing epidemic of youth ill-being, not least amongst those who are already at the margins.
IF20 Global Listening Initiative 2021
To understand how education can contribute to the above challenges, the IF20 Education Working Group partners launched a Global Listening Initiative (GLI). The aim of the GLI was two-fold: (1) to ground policy inquiry in existing global proposals, (2) to understand the lived experiences of children and young people in diverse contexts and engage them in identifying actions for educational transformation.
The GLI consisted in two parts: an extended Desk Review to listen to the widespread calls to action from diverse international organisations, global educational commissions, religious communities, grassroots movement and scholars; and a global consultation to listen to young people and engage with their perspectives. Over two thousand adolescents (aged 14-19) from 26 countries across five continents took part in online and/or in-person workshops hosted by NGOs, schools, and faith-based organisations. Adolescents from diverse backgrounds were invited to reflect on their experiences of life and education during the Covid-19 pandemic; identify who and what have been most supportive to their learning and well-being; and propose educational policy priorities that can explicitly support their healing, learning and flourishing. Participants’ insights were drawn out through a deep listening and dialogic process, and immersive data analysis, bringing together themes arising from structured and unstructured facilitators’ and youth’s reports, images, drawings, and quotes from participants. Both processes have yielded rich understandings of the potentials to work purposefully through education programmes as ways to advocate for and advance equity, inclusion, and well-being. Conceptions of healing and well-being rooted in faith, indigenous and other spiritual traditions played an important part in guiding the GLI’s reflection.
IF20 Education Policy Brief and Priorities Proposed by Global Adolescents
In the light of policy priorities outlined by G20 leaders, and the emergent insights from the GLI processes, the IF20 Education Working Group partners support five key interconnected recommendations to address global challenges:
- Safeguard healing and well-being as a cornerstone of education
- Engage youth in educational decision-making
- Ensure equitable and consistent access to quality education for all
- Embed global and ecological concerns in curricula agenda
- Prioritise teachers’ well-being and their capacities to facilitate blended learning
IF20 High-Level Dialogue on 28th September 2021
On 28th September, an IF20 high-level dialogue took place on Zoom, chaired by the IF20 Vice President, Professor Katherine Marshall. National politicians, interfaith leaders and international educational directors drew on their expertise and experiences and explored how these priorities and proposed action might be meaningfully integrated in relevant contexts. Most importantly, selected young people who took part in the Global Listening Initiative joined global leaders and shared their voices and their rationales for such policy priorities and subsequent action. This was regarded as a unique opportunity for global leaders to engage directly with young people in co-imagining and co-creating educational ecosystems that nurture both human well-being and the well-ness of nature.
Key Reflections from High-Level Leaders
All leaders who were present at the dialogue expressed their appreciation for the young people’s efforts, and fully endorsed the educational policy priorities emergent through the IF20 Global Listening Initiative. It was recognised that the more foreboding our plenary emergencies, the more complex our global challenges, the greater the need for dialogue, listening, love, care and human fraternity. IF20 Educational Working Group partners cherished many ideas, advice and guidance provided by the global leaders. Pertinent to the young people’s interests include:
Healing and well-being through spirituality and education
Judge Mohammad Abdulsalam (Secretary General, High Committee for Human Fraternity) evokes the imperative of healing the past wounds and well-being through spirituality and education. The significance of spirituality through interreligious and interfaith learning in enabling the flowering of every child’s full potential is equally highlighted by Prof Anantanand Rambachan (Co-President, Religious for Peace). The spiritual vision of education is further echoed in Argentina National Deputy Victoria Morales Gorleri’s and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh’s (Chairman of Nishkam Group of Charity Organisations) reflection on humanity’s oneness and the role of spirituality in education in enriching and nourishing human fraternity and solidarity as the basis to confronting global challenges and ensure co-flourishing of all. Lord John Alderdice (UK House of Lords) draws on Shruthi’s (18, India) words about younger generations as the bearers of humanity’s dreams, and proposes that faith communities have a key part to play in supporting all children and youth. He also adds that this requires people of faith to listen deeply and learn to appreciate the gifts we bring to each other. Professor Italo Fiorin’s (Senior Advisor, Catholic Congregation of Education of the Holy See /Advisor, Italy National Ministry of Education) resonates with this wisdom of deep listening and shares the three key aspirations that His Holiness Pope Francis advocates through the University of Meaning: to listen, to create and to celebrate. Like Lord Alderdice, Professor Fiorin stresses that deep listening leads us to the pathways of mutual bonding, the discovery of life’s meanings, and the offering of the gifts of life to one another.
Innovative approaches to healing, well-being and educational transformation
Dr Pilvi Torsti (Finland State Secretary) encourages more attention to be paid to students’ engaging in co-curricular service programme as a way to connect learning with lives in the communities and empower young people to take responsibilities for a better world. Ms Mary Kangethe (Director, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO) emphasises that education must be relevant to the challenges confronting our local and global communities, such as SDGs, and climate change, through project-based learning, and teacher leadership. João Costa (Portugal Deputy Minister of Education) suggests that nurturing key competencies, building inclusive learning environments, and promoting citizenship education be key focus. Ella (18, UK) points to the need for self-inquiry to cultivate our unfolding self and regards inner journey of self-discovery to be interdependent to learning to live and contribute to a life of co-flourishing. Raihana (14, Indonesia) reminds us of the critical importance of hybrid approaches to cultivating listening, empathy, collaboration and dialogue, termed as ‘soft’ and social emotional skills. Alun (14, Indonesia) adds that integrating ethical ways of learning, being and acting are central to students’ learning and holistic well-being.
Global ecosystem for education
Dr Dominic Richardson (Chief, Social and Economic Policy, UNICEF Innocenti Centre) urges us to review and renew educational assessment/evaluation, curricula contents, teachers’ professional development, and community engagement so as to instil spiritually inspired global ecosystem for education, supported by research. Developing and monitoring a global exchange platform that keeps track of worldwide innovative practices. Ahmed Aljarwan (President, Global Council for Tolerance and Peace) advocates teachers professional development spaces for mutual learning. Young people point out that youth leadership capacities must be at the core of global transformation. Leadership should be rooted in a spiritual vision, nurtured by interreligious and interfaith education and dialogue.
The power of deep listening and dialogue
Both high-level leaders and the young people present at the dialogue were profoundly inspired by the power of deep listening and deep dialogue. They suggest that it allows us to dwell in where human spirits reside, within us, in our encounters with others, and in our being-with each other, and with all things in nature, and the transcendent. Young people feel that deep listening from high-level leaders provides them with an experience of being valued, cared, ‘received’, accepted. Deep dialogue helps open ourselves to difference, e.g. faith, power, class, and age difference, and enables us to share life experiences, concerns and aspirations. Together, deep listening and dialogue contribute to healing past wounds, and the emergence of a co-creative, co-constructive, relational present and future.
Ella (18, UK) says: “I want to leave with a paradigm of hope. This dialogue affirms the oneness of our being, as in Ubuntu and the mantra ‘soham’, and that we are because of each other, including our non-human friends, and our structures. We create and we have the power to change through this awareness of our oneness, love and peace.”
Roy (16, Lebanon) says: “After everything we have been through in Lebanon, everyone nearly lost hope in education… However, this dialogue has restored my faith and showed that global leaders do care about children and young people, and are willing to work together and support a better education for us and for future generations.”
Sushmitha (18, India) says: “I am thankful for you all, creating such safe space for us and listening to us. My hope is that we don’t go back to pre-pandemic ways of education. The only justice is to build forward differently, ensure that this new education system as we have imagined together will empower young people to thrive collectively.”
This high-level dialogue has helped consolidate the IF20 Education Working Group partners’ commitments to two major global initiatives: (1) Supporting teachers’ learning and professional development; (2) Nurturing youth leadership and transformative competencies. High-level leaders and young people in this dialogue have stressed that both initiatives are spiritual endeavours and require active engagement of global religious and faith communities.
If relational process is the overarching connection that unites emergent approaches to governance, thus opening new vistas of theory and practice, further exploration is vital. To this end, the GHFP Research Institute invites scholars and practitioners whose work centrally bears on these issues to explore the implications and potentials of relational process in governance.
The following are among the questions to be considered during the two-day International Symposium to be held on 6-7 May 2021:
- What does a relational orientation offer for the future development of governance, from the local, regional, to the national, international and trans-national level?
- Bearing on issues in governance, are there significant differences among theories of relational process, with implications for governance?
- What particular practices of relating might be recognized as positive contributions to governance? How can we best understand their functioning? How might governance be enriched by practices of relating?
- What are the major impediments to effective relational process? How are they overcome?
- With relational process as a centre-piece, how are we to conceive of leadership? What practices would be invited?
In this A Narrative of Love conversation, Dr Vandana Shiva explores her perspectives on the notion of love, and the practices of love in ecology and democracy.
Dr Vandana Shiva is a most dynamic and provocative thinker, scientist and activist who has dedicated her life’s work to promoting biodiversity in agriculture and defending people’s equitable access to nature’s resources. In 1987, Dr Shiva founded ‘Navdanya’ to start saving seeds as an alternative to the corporations patenting genetically-engineered seeds and using the WTO to impose seed monopolies. As a thinker and public intellectual, Dr Shiva has contributed to non-violent, compassionate, cooperative systems of knowledge, production and consumption. Amongst her most influential books are “Staying Alive” “Earth Democracy”, “Soil not Oil”, and “Who Really Feeds the World?” Dr Shiva has received many awards, including the Right Livelihood Award in 1993, the Order of the Golden Ark, Global 500 Award of the UN, and Earth Day International Award. Time Magazine identified Dr Shiva as an environmental “hero” in 2003, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia. Dr Shiva serves on the boards of many organizations, including the World Future Council, the International Forum on Globalization, and Slow Food International.
She explores what it means to love and to be loving. For instance, she maintains: “Love holds the truth, love holds true liberation. … but we have been burdened with a fragmented worldview, … creating a vocabulary that actually dismissed love … and the very possibility of our being human.”
During Covid-19 pandemic, the world is plunged into perplexity. On a daily basis, the majority of people around the globe seem to experience some form of disorientation, be it economic uncertainty, social divisiveness, political turmoil, media manipulation, or ecological crisis. Whilst the sense of loss, the experience of alienation, and the feeling of hopelessness are spreading, the GHFP and partners, including the Spirit of Humanity Forum, the Fetzer Institute, have launched a project entitled A Narrative of Love. The project seeks to explore the power of love in practice that might invite humanity out of the current impasse.
Included in this project, is a series of conversations with thinkers, spiritual teachers and practitioners on how they see the significance of love in our personal and public lives. This is A Narrative of Love Conversation Series hosted by Dr Scherto Gill. These conversations are in preparation for the 5th Spirit of Humanity Forum scheduled to take place in June 2021, entitled “Towards a Loving World: Leadership and Governance for Well-Being”.
On 15th October, GHFP’s Senior Fellow, Dr Scherto Gill, presented an Education Policy Brief at the G20 Interfaith Forum. She highlights the importance of exploring interfaith perspectives and interfaith organisations contribution to the global agendas, such as UN SDGs, the UN Convention on Climate Change, and so forth. Below is the transcript of her presentation.
Greetings to all. It is such a privilege for me to take part in this distinguished panel, and my sincere gratitude goes to the organisers for creating such an important spacue at the G20 Interfaith Forum for a most timely dialogue about education.
Let me begin by recalling the two aspirations that have brought us together:
One is this year’s G20 Presidency Agenda, which calls on G20 leaders to “empower people, pave the way for a better future for all.” Hence, the theme: Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All.
The other is the raison-d’etre of the G20 Interfaith Forum. As already highlighted during the Opening Plenary, the Forum offers a platform where rich ideas, and values-based actions of the world’s religious, faith and interfaith communities contributing to the global agendas are heard and understood.
Indeed, under these aspirations, and in partnership with the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, the G20 Interfaith Forum launched an Education Task Force, consisting of experts from major global organisations, such as the Aga Khan Global Network, Arigatou International, Dream a Dream India, Open Society Foundations, Global Centre for Pluralism, and Plan C: Culture and Cohesion.
I had the honour of facilitating the Task Force research that explored precisely the intersection between interfaith organisations and communities’ educational initiatives and the relevant UN SDGs especially 3, 4 and 5, namely promoting health and wellbeing, quality and equality of education.
The research brought to light that during the COVID-19 pandemic, interfaith organisations in many settings have been empowering local communities to close the gaps resulted from school closures, lack of public services due to lockdown, and isolation. They also provided practical support to address the acute social, emotional and spiritual needs of children and young people at this difficult time.
What else have the Task Force learned from the research in terms of the priorities in education policy that encourage inclusion and diversity? I will briefly mention three points which I believe are particularly innovative and pertinent to this panel’s dialogue:
First, from an interfaith perspective, educational inclusion is more than ensuring access to schooling. Many interfaith educational programmes conceive inclusion as, above all, the nurturing of the whole child, and supporting every child’s well-being in all dimensions of their development, physical, social-emotional, intellectual, moral, cultural, and spiritual.
Second, an interfaith perspective, especially through the lenses of love, compassion, respect, and humility, tends to advocate the view that human diversity is to be celebrated, and that the presence of difference in the educational environments can serve to enrich our pedagogical practices, and encourage educators to be more sensitive to the evolving well-being and learning needs of all students.
Third, an interfaith approach demonstrates that embracing inclusion and diversity must be an integral endeavour. That is to say that these must not be treated as isolated gestures, or add-ons. Instead, inclusion and diversity must be a whole system process where the empowerment of educators is a key.
Based on these insights, the G20 Interfaith Forum Education Task Force were able to develop an education Policy Brief for the consideration of G20 leaders, highlighting three policy priorities:
- Advancing the Wellbeing of Every Child as the Core Aim of Education
- Ensuring Active Participation of All in Inclusive Learning Environments
- Aligning Teachers’ Professional Learning with a Wellbeing and Inclusion Focus
Illustrative practices within these policy priorities include, for instance, interfaith curriculum, interreligious literacy, relational pedagogy, democratic participation, actively engaging students at the margin, empowerment of girls, dialogic and collaborative learning, and connecting teaching and learning to students’ lived realities,
These interfaith perspectives also prompt us to realise that education already holds the ‘cure’ of the widespread social malaise. Hence it is not an exaggeration to propose that the ‘vaccine’ to end the hidden pandemic, i.e. the prevailing social inequality and injustice, that has plagued humanity for so long, is precisely to be found in our education system only if it is inclusive, human-centred, and caring, and only if it aims to nurture the well-being of all, and realise opportunities for all.
As John Dewey cautioned, unless we do so, we will rob our children of their tomorrow.
Understanding Peace Holistically: From the Spiritual to the Political
This GHFP book argues that spiritually rooted and morally oriented peacefulness is relevant to the socio-economic–political structures that provide the conditions for a culture of peace. As the authors build up a theory of peace from the spiritual to the relational and communal towards the socio-political, this book also identifies key principles that characterise international and institutional processes that nurture peace. The holistic conception of peace developed in this book may guide and inspire individuals, institutions, and international organisations with regards to how to make peace.
International Webinar: The impact of COVID-19 on religious and faith communities
On 27 May at 4pm CET, the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute partnered with the GHFP Research Institute, the Spirit of Humanity Forum, the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) and the United Religions Initiative, and held a webinar examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on religious and faith communities around the world.
Questions discussed during the webinar were:
- What are the pandemic’s major impact on religious and faith communities? How might religious leaders and their followers help embrace the challenges brought by the pandemic?
- How might we reduce social tension stemming from religious factors at this unique time? How can we do to foster solidarity within and between different religious and faith communities and improve mental and physical well-being during the pandemic?
- What religious, faith and spiritual practices could become part of the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world? What could be the part of religion, faith and spirituality in future of our society?
The event featured the following speakers:
Katherine Marshall, Senior Fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University / Executive Director, World Faiths Development Dialogue
Victor Kazanjian, Executive Director, United Religions Initiative
Patrice Brodeur, Professor, Institute of Religious Studies, University of Montreal & Senior Adviser, KAICIID
The Webinar was facilitated by Scherto Gill, Senior Research Fellow and Executive Secretary, GHFP Research Institute.
To view the event:
On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCXMYNkGKho
Hosted by IofCI’s Trustbuilding Program in partnership with the GHFP Research Institute, this international seminar offers a unique opportunity to meet, share and discuss the process of building trust.
At a time of increasing fragmentation, trust is diminishing around the world. Communities face racial, ethnic and religious divides, intergenerational conflict, and the rise of extremist attitudes, as well as social divisions and the legacy of war. The Seminar poses a critical question: “How can we address these challenges?”
Among the discussants will be Letlapa Mphahlele, commander of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army during apartheid times. His anger was such that he ordered retaliatory massacres of white civilians. After a radical transformation he now sees the whole of humanity as ‘my people’. Letlapa, who, until 2013, was President of the Pan Africanist Congress and a Member of the South African Parliament, is a protagonist in the award-winning film, Beyond Forgiving, which depicts a profound story of tragedy, forgiveness and hope.
This is by invitation-only event. For further information and interest to contribute, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.