UNESCO Launch partnership with the GHFP on Educational Transformation and Collective Healing

International Webinar: The Legacy of Slavery, Transgenerational Trauma & Collective Healing

26th May 2021 (16.30 – 19.30 CEST) Webinar Registration – Zoom

At this exciting international event, the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace Research Institute (GHFP) will bring together high-profile speakers and artists to launch “Healing the Wounds of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: Approaches and Practices: A Desk Review.”

This timely Report draws together the perspectives of researchers and practitioners, to map major approaches and practices to addressing the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery. It is the fruit of collaboration between an international team of researchers and practitioners, under the guidance of the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the GHFP Research Institute. The Report highlights the imperative to embark on a collective journey towards healing transgenerational trauma and the importance of systemic transformation.

Formally launching and disseminating this Report is an active response to UNESCO’s Global Call against racism. It will inspire the world to learn from the histories of slavery, acknowledge the harms of structural injustice and institutional racism, and promote inclusion, pluralism and intercultural dialogue.

Ms Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, and Mr Sharif Istvan Horthy, Chairman of the GHFP Research Institute, will take advantage of this presentation to announce a broader collaborative project entitled “Educational Transformation and Collective Healing: Addressing the Traumas and Legacy of Slavery”. This ambitious initiative will nurture youth leadership capacities so that young people can implement a racial healing programme for building just communities and initiate policy changes to address structural dehumanisation.

Following the official presentation, an international panel of historians of slavery, scholars in race studies, and experts in racial healing – Paul Lovejoy, Myriam Cottias, Achille Mbembe, Walter Mignolo and Joy DeGruy – will discuss the key insights of the Report, including the psycho-social legacy of slave trade and slavery. They will also explore practical steps along the pathways that the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the GHFP partnership can take to empower and engage global communities and public institutions in collective healing.

The launch will conclude with an inspiring dialogue between two living legends – Marcus Miller, UNESCO Slave Route Project Spokesperson, and African-American musician and composer, and Ray Lema, the Congolese musician and composer – about the power of music for healing and cultural transformation.

26th May 2021 (16.30 – 19.30 CEST) Webinar Registration – Zoom

relational process as governance

International Symposium on Relational Process as Governance held online 6-7 May 2021

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:

  1. What does a relational orientation offer for the future development of governance, from the local, regional, to the national, international and trans-national level?
  2. Bearing on issues in governance, are there significant differences among theories of relational process, with implications for governance?
  3. 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?
  4. What are the major impediments to effective relational process? How are they overcome?
  5. With relational process as a centre-piece, how are we to conceive of leadership? What practices would be invited?
A Narrative of Love

Dr Joy DeGruy on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

In this A Narrative of Love conversation, Dr Joy DeGruy explores what it feels for black African Americans to negotiate the multiple challenges of living in a racist society, including internalised racism, the learned helplessness, and structural dehumanisation. Dr DeGruy also highlights key elements that can move the society towards healing, at both personal and collective levels.

More importantly, Dr DeGruy offers pathways that individuals, organisations, and governments can embark on to repair, rebuild and restructure our common habitat through partaking in the mutuality of shared humanness. Thus we can all Be the Healing.

Seeds of Love: Dr Vandana Shiva sharing her Narrative of Love

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.”

A Narrative of Love Conversation Series hosted by Dr Scherto Gill

A Narrative of Love Conversation Series

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”.

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.

peace and peacefulness

GHFP Paperback: Understanding Peace Holistically

gillthomson2019_understanding-peace_holistically

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.

This book is now available on Peter Lang’s website, and on Amazon.