Dr Scherto Gill at the 2020 G20 Interfaith Forum

GHFP Senior Fellow Scherto Gill at 2020 G20 Interfaith Forum

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:

  1. Advancing the Wellbeing of Every Child as the Core Aim of Education
  2. Ensuring Active Participation of All in Inclusive Learning Environments
  3. 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,

To conclude:

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.

Interfaith Approach to Inclusive Education

This year, the GHFP sponsored the G20 Interfaith (G20i) Education Task Force’s research into Inclusive and Caring Education from an Interfaith Perspective. The research consisted in three parts: (1) a Desk Review to understand better how religion/faith and spirituality might inspire an innovative understanding of inclusive and caring education; (2) a Questionnaire Survey to seek interfaith organisations and explore faith-inspired approaches to inclusive and caring education; (3) Case Studies to illustrate how interfaith organisations engage in inclusive and caring practices in the communities.

Three priority areas have been proposed as the basis for policy recommendations:

  1. Advancing wellbeing of all as the aim of education
  2. Ensuring participation of all learners within richly inclusive learning environments
  3. Aligning teachers’ professional development with the wellbeing and inclusion focus  

The finalised G20 Interfaith Forum Education Policy Brief will now be presented at 2020 G20 Interfaith Forum to be held on 13-16 October 2020.

21 September: International Day of Peace

How to Understand Peace?

At the GHFP, we conceptualise peace as an inner spiritual state that has implications for our worldly processes. Here Dr Scherto Gill, our Senior Fellow, draws on the GHFP’s book entitled Understanding Peace Holistically, and offers three interconnected ideas:

First, peace is a spiritual value. As an inner state, peace is a special kind of tranquillity where we identify with the self as the essence of the ‘I’, the soul. Hence the expression: “I am a Soul.”  The ‘I’ connects well with that which is peaceful, such as the Divine, the Sacred, the Spirit. When our spiritual self-identification is primary, it can generate a blissful serenity that defuses the potentially violent nature of inner conflict. The peaceful ‘I’ can transcend the lived psychological tensions and calm their non-peaceful tendencies. This inner state is then experienced in our relationship with our self, other people and other beings in the world. In this way, inner peace denotes our intention and capacity to be in the right relationship, including living harmoniously with others near and far. When we are in such a state of peace, we can be ethical in our thoughts, attitudes, and acts – these are spontaneous expressions of spirituality.

Second, peace is a potential feature of all aspects of human life that involve conflict. Our world is characterised by diversity, and where there is difference, inevitably there is conflict, tension, and contradiction. These are normal ebbs and flows of life and they should not be equated with violence. Hence, conflict is not the opposite of peace, and peace does not require eliminating conflict. Often, the presence of conflict can invite us to encounter, to dialogue, to engage our humanness, to recognise each other as human beings, as part of a ‘WE’. With this mutual recognition, we can transform conflict towards innovation and positive change. With this mutual recognition, we can resolve violence – not only because violence dehumanises and therefore we reject it, but also because if others are violated and hurt, one is equally hurting – that is precisely the nature of being part of a WE. Therefore non-violence is always part of peace-making in the world – It is an active striving towards love, friendship, respect and justice that denounces all forms of antagonism, violence, and enemy-making.

Third, peace is constituted in human life itself, our well-being and flourishing. Peacefulness as a spiritual value is rooted in the intrinsically valuable nature of our being. Being human is itself valuable, regardless who we are, where we are from, nor what we are, what we do. This self-perception is a fundamental form of dignity, self-respect, or self-love. Seeing human beings (and other beings on the planet) in this way allows us to recognise that all lives, well-being and flourishing are likewise valuable. Similarly, the contents of our lives, including our experiences, activities, processes, relationships, also have intrinsic value. Peace as a spiritual state directs our appreciative awareness to these values.

For peacefulness to pertain to our spiritual and non-violent ways of being, and constitute our personal well-being, and collective flourishing, it requires that our institutions be underpinned by a culture that embodies the values of respect and compassion, our public practices to be humanising and forgiving. Equally, our global socio-economic and political systems need to reflect this respect for the inherent non-instrumental value of human being, human life, and all lives on the planet.

Bringing these three ideas together, we can see that peace is simultaneously spiritual, ethical, cultural and political. Peacefulness as an inner spiritual state has bearings on our worldly processes, and vice versa.

On this International Day of Peace, when we are invited to join millions around the planet to meditate together, by quietening our minds, widening our hearts, we also open a collective space for our spirits to speak to us about what it means to make peace, build peace, and above all, to be peace.

WE can build peace, live peace, and BE PEACE

On Monday 21st September, the GHFP joins European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO) in celebrating the International Day of Peace.

At our present time of uncertainty, many people and communities are experiencing powerlessness, and even despair. This short EPLO video message below is powerful, and empowering. The GHFP believes that WE can build peace, live peace, and be peace together.

Yes Quest

Yes Quest

The GHFP has been a long-term sponsor of the YES Quest, a youth-centred project that aims to offer young people time, space and nurturing to enable them to embark on an inner and an outer journey of transformation.

The inner journey takes a young person into a deep personal development experience. With skilled support, they will face their past, fears and explore the treasures and talents within and develop the confidence and commitment to fully express them in life and work. The outer journey gives the young person the opportunity to activate this new awareness, honour the inner change and take that first step!

In a time when there are many pressures from the media, parents, teachers, music, friends, religion, the YES Quest can help create young people seek clarity in terms of how they should be to live a good life in the world and what they could do to make their life meaningful.

International Symposium 2012

International Symposium on Religion Spirituality and Education for Human Flourishing.
24-26 FEBRUARY 2012, Dar Moulay Boubkar, Marrakech, Morocco.
Co-Convened by Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace and UN Alliance of Civilizations ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs’ Project.

An edited book of papers, ISBN 978-1-137-37389-2 is published by Palgrave Macmillan. The book is entitled: RE-DEFINING RELIGIOUS EDUCATION: SPIRITUALITY for HUMAN FLOURISHING. Please visit the Official publication page.

INTRODUCTION : For a large proportion of the people in the world, spirituality is an important part of being human and often thought to be an essential element of a flourishing life. Today’s world is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and so there is a pressing need to educate in order to develop a deeper awareness of the spiritual dimensions of our lives. In this context, we are interested specifically in exploring the part that religious education can play in cultivating human virtues and spirituality. Under various names, such as ‘education about religion’, ‘faith education,’ ‘religious studies,’ and ‘religious education,’ the teaching of religious beliefs has already been integrated into the national curricula of many countries. However, the focus of religious education is generally to impart knowledge about religions, and perhaps gesture towards some inter-religious understanding. This way of approaching religious education tends to regard religion as an academic subject, and because such education is at arms-length, the spiritual and experiential aspects of religion are not made directly available to students.
The Symposium will aim to go beyond the current knowledge-centred approaches to religious education and offers a space to discuss and debate the following questions:

In what ways can education of/from religions better contribute to young people’s spirituality and to the flourishing of their lives?
How can these contributions of religions be better integrated in schooling?

OBJECTIVES : The objectives of the Symposium are:

To establish a common platform or framework for understanding the positive contributions of religions towards spirituality;
To identify the ways in which educational systems can facilitate or nurture such spirituality;
To examine the pedagogical implications and challenges of such educational programmes;
To identify a set of good questions for further inquiries and possible research.

METHODOLOGY and PROCESSES : Prior to the Symposium, each of the participants will write a scholarly paper to address some aspect of the main questions that the Symposium aims to explore. These papers will be circulated to all the participants before the event and will serve as resources for the discussions/conversations during the event. The Symposium is envisaged to last three days. Each day, there will be plenary sessions, group discussions, and optional sessions of religious and spiritual practices offered by the participants from their own traditions.

Visit the Official UNAoC/ERB site for Education About Religions