Teaching Cultural Diversity in Schools for the Safe-Return of Persecuted Minorities in the Middle East
By admin May 26, 2017

Photo by: Annakate Auten

In March 2015, a conference was held in Paris on the victims of religious violence in the Middle East, during which an action plan was presented on how the international community agreed to defend the people persecuted for ethnic or religious reasons particularly those belonging to the Christian, Yazidi and Shabak minority groups. Two years later, this month in Madrid, a conference hosted by the foreign minister of Spain, followed the Paris action plan by determining how the international community could identify the most urgent priorities through programs and projects enabling displaced and persecuted populations to return to their homes and how to foster reconciliation and stabilization in the region.

During the 2015 Paris conference, the international community agreed on the action plan that was to be outlined in order to guarantee the safe return of those who had been persecuted and it was also made clear that military commitments needed to be made in order to end impunity of those who had committed crimes against these minorities. Earlier this week foreign ministers from Europe and the Middle East as well as high officials of the international community met once again to attend the follow-up conference with the aim to clearly identify the priorities that need to be implemented through programs and projects along the lines of what had been discussed two years earlier in Paris. Among the attendees, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, argued for the need to protect cultural heritage and diversity in the Middle East, while also advocating for education approaches, including targeting “coexistence in schools, learning to live together, and protecting victims of ethnic and religious violence,” as these approaches are seen as the most effective way to foster peace in the region. The international community has agreed that hard power should be used against extremists that have committed crimes against local populations for reasons of ethnic affiliation or religious conviction, but during her intervention, Ms. Bokova also argued for soft power as a long-term peace-building tool. Indeed, she continued saying that extremists targeted schools because area aware of the power knowledge has to counter their rhetoric drawing false visions of faith and history. Ms. Bokova further noted that these extremists know soft-power can foster dialogue and help people live together by harnessing their diversity, which is precisely what they abhor.

It is in that spirit that UNESCO proposed the launch of a regional initiative to teach cultural diversity in schools. By highlighting cultural diversities and promoting the restoration of cities, through it’s Emergency Fund for the Protection of Heritage, like the Nabi Yunus Shrine in Mosul, an increased promotion for inclusive citizenship, unity and dialogue may be developed. At the end of the conference, European foreign ministers, notably from Spain and France, called for the international community to exhibit a stronger commitment to the voluntary and safe return of refugees and displaced minorities.


Read More:

ReliefWeb: Highlights of the Madrid conference May, 2017

UN Press: Preserving Cultural Heritage in the Middle East

France Diplomatie: Madrid Conference

France Diplomaties: Paris Conference March 2015

UNESCO: Madrid Conference

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