Home Forums Peace, Justice and Unity Promoting and Preserving Social Harmony through Interfaith Dialogue

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    Dabee Rajendrakumar

    Mauritius is a unique country for many reasons – historical, anthropological and sociological. It is a meeting place of a diversity of races, ethnicities and cultures, the peaceful co-habitation of which should actually be considered more a miracle than the economic development during the last decades. Without a solid social foundation, no economic development can take place. Socio-political stability is a sine qua non for any country’s economic growth. This stability in turn is dependent upon faithful adherence to and application of values and principles upheld by individuals in the society. While they may be emanating from the particular belief systems of the individuals themselves, there are some fundamental and universal values common to all, which have played a determining role in making Mauritius a modern and prosperous nation.
    However, events in the recent past have revealed the fragility of the social fabric. Minor incidents carry with them the destructive potentiality to tear apart decades of harmonious co-existence and jeopardize the future of the country. Moreover, a sharp rise of fundamentalism, of all forms, in all faiths has been noted around the world, further exacerbated by a spirit of intolerance – expressed through written, verbal and physical violence. Global connectivity brings at the door-step of homes not only its benefits but also dangers to which children and young people are particularly vulnerable. Mauritius will not remain impervious to these for long and therefore permanent and sustainable solution needs to be devised so that the integrity of the nation and social harmony is preserved.

    Potential solutions
    1. Fundamentalism strives upon ignorance. The most potent solution therefore is Education. The State has direct access to children and young people through the hundreds of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions it administers. These can become perfect platforms for imparting those core values that have been instrumental in making the nation an economic success. In partnership with NGOs like Arigatou International, the Learning to Live Together (LTLT) programme which it has developed can be integrated and implemented in the National Curriculum.
    2. Fundamentalism fortunately is a disease which affects mostly adults. Children and youth, intellectually and ethically immature, are particularly prone to it. On the other hand, they are equally capable of demonstrating strong sense of tolerance and respect towards what grown-ups call the ‘other’. Their juvenile innocence allows acceptance and integration while their unstained, yet inquisitive minds are still open to learning about other cultures and belief systems. They are, moreover, spiritually conscious of the interconnections between men and nature. The Ethics Education Approach developed in collaboration with UNESCO proposes strategies which enable acquisition of these core skills and attitudes and nurture the spirituality of children and young people. It is being implemented in many countries and yielding positive results. These strategies can be adapted to the Mauritian context.
    3. The integration of a programme which aims at strengthening social cohesion starting from grassroots requires identifying and taking on board all stakeholders involved in the education of children and young people. Government agencies (MoE, MIE, MGI, MES, TEC, etc.), Non-Governmental Organizations (Council of Religions, MACOSS, etc.) and even the private sector can collaborate and make joint efforts towards ensuring a society without prejudices and stereotypes. While the first two mentioned can provide the expertise, the last mentioned can participate through the Corporate Social Responsibility Scheme.
    4. The creation of Community Interfaith Groups across the island to promote Interfaith Dialogue and develop a culture of Conflict Resolution. All these groups can further be federated under one National Organization (like the Council of Religions, for e.g) working towards unity, peace and reconciliation.
    5. Integration of a component in the Curriculum which aims at creating conditions conducive for an all-inclusive and stable society entails empowering educators (primary and secondary) and all those who work with children and youth. Knowledge, skills and attitudes embedded in LTLT methodologies will therefore need to be imparted through LTLT’s Ethics Education Approach.
    6. The LTLT Programme and the Ethics Education Approach already integrate Monitoring and Evaluation tools for assessing success of the activities designed. In addition A Strategic Plan may be prepared. On a medium and long term basis, Evaluation mechanisms will need to be devised to ensure that the LTLT in Curriculum is on the right track. Updates and re-adjustments can also be made in response to feedbacks obtained.
    1. Young people and children will experience a holistic growth since LTLT fills the lacuna of ethical and spiritual development, in addition to the intellectual and psycho-motor ones. They will be in this way able to become economically active individuals with social awareness, ecologically conscious and politically involved in addressing issues that matter to them.
    2. This will have a rippling effect whereby for generations to come, Mauritius will be able to enjoy social harmony and unity-in-diversity based on universal values that cut across all ethnicities and religions.
    3. A society will be created where individuals will be imbued with knowledge and understanding of the importance of being united-in-difference and appreciate the beauty thereof. They will acquire qualities like tolerance, acceptance, non-violence and respect for the cultural and religious practices of all components of the society.
    4. This social stability will in turn create conditions for a higher quality of political debates that will take into account national issues rather than the interests of particular segments of the society.
    5. Individuals and groups will resort to non-violent means to diffuse conflicts or tensions of socio-political and/or religious nature and engage into positive Dialogue and reconciliation.
    6. A true sense of patriotism will be generated where individuals will be proud to belong to Mauritius. A genuine Mauritian Nationalism transcending all cultural, religious, ethnic and racial differences will pervade in social, economic, and political debates.

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    Salt Slow : Julia Armfield : 9781250224774

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