GNRC Amman Child Regional Workshop On The Right to Live in Peace

Under the patronage of His Royal Highness, Prince El Hassan bin Talal, of Jordan, the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), Japan, in partnership with the Ecumenical Studies Center (ESC) in Amman, and with the support of Arigatou Foundation (Japan), held the GNRC Regional Workshop for children and adolescents in the Arab World entitled ” My Right is to Live in Peace! ” at Firas Palace Hotel in Amman, Jordan, between 22-28 August 2004. The main focus of the Workshop constitutes one of the main aims on which the ESC and GNRC work.

Aims of the Workshop. The main aims of the Workshop focused on disseminating the substance of “The Message on Living in Peace”, which children and adolescents presented to the GNRC Second Forum, held in Geneva, Switzerland ( 17 – 19 May 2004 ), among the participants. Then it was submitted to the Jordanian Government and was published in the different forms of the media. In addition, three subjects were discussed: The Concept of Peace and Reconciliation, The Concept of Dialogue and Accepting the Other, and the Concept of Communication and Self-knowledge.

The participants concluded by discussing the following formula, which became their motive: How can “I + YOU = WE “?

The Workshop was the first step in following up the decisions and recommendations of the GNRC Second Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland (17-19 May, 2004), which saw the need to find a space for training children and adolescents in the art of leadership. This training aims to understand the present and explore the future, to draw up practical mechanisms in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and to discover the implications on their daily relationship. In addition, it aims at exchanging experiences and points of view in order to coordinate and network among children, at drawing up effective mechanisms in this field and a future work plan and implementing it.

For the first time in this kind of workshops, in the Region, the children presented the subjects under discussion by themselves and discussed them in five working groups. Then they presented the results in addition to recommendations, which they are working on implementing within the framework of the organizations to which they belong and represent.

The Participants
. The participants (fifty adolescents, five chaperons, six youth volunteers, and two administrators) represented GNRC member organizations in: Jordan, Palestine, Palestinian Authority Territories, and Lebanon. New organizations where invited from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to be acquainted with the GNRC activities.

Proceedings of the Workshop. The participants arrived in the afternoon of Sunday, 22 August. The first session was designated to welcoming the participants, getting acquainted with each other, and discussing the program. The participants were divided into five working groups to discuss the assigned topics. From these groups, three workshop committees were formed: The Steering Committee, The Activities Committee, and The Drafting Committee, in order to train the participants on leadership skills.
In the session after dinner, Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Qais Sadiq, President of the Ecumenical Studies Center, and GNRC Coordinator for the Arab Countries, presented the history, the formation and activities of GNRC, as well as its future aspirations. He explained the main themes, which were studied by the GNRC Second Forum held in Geneva (17-19 May, 2004).
Miss Caroline Zahm, one of the participants from Lebanon, who had participated in the meeting of the ” Conference of Children for New Generation ” held in Geneva (17-19 May, 2004), presented the story of the ” Children and Young People’s Message on Living in Peace ” which was presented on May 18, 2004, to the Second Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children, in Geneva – Switzerland.

On the Second day (Monday, 23 August), the opening session was held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal, of Jordan, in the amphitheatre of King Hussein Cultural center in the Greater Amman Municipality Complex. The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Qais Sadiq thanked His Royal Highness for patronizing this workshop and said:
“Allow me Your Highness, in the name of the family of the Ecumenical Studies Center as its President, and in the name of the Global Network of Religions for Children as its Coordinator in the Arab World, to offer you my deep gratitude and appreciation for your lofty patronage of this workshop. We are indeed guided by your opinions and encouraged by your attitudes.
Allow me also to convey to Your Highness the greetings of Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, the Representative of Arigatou Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Myochikai, the supporter of this workshop.
In this important meeting, which is enriched by your presence, we meet with children and adolescents, delegates of their organizations, most of which are members of the Global Network of Religions for Children. They have all come to meet, discuss, and dialogue about their reality and their future, their apprehensions and hopes, and the challenges which they face. They have come to discover the reality about themselves realizing that discovering one’s self cannot be achieved except by great efforts and by a procession which takes a long time, avoiding isolation and seclusion.

These issues and challenges have become their daily bread. The issue of “Peace” has become similar to the story of “The Jug of Oil”, which is meaningless and aimless. They have heard about this issue since their early childhood. Dialogue and Accepting the Other is a complicated issue similar to the relationship between the past and modernity. On the other hand, communication and the search for partners in humanity is interrupted similar to the developmental, educational, instructional and societal processions which are woven around the children and thrown on them as if they were earthworms in their cocoons, without meaning, trying to find an exit to light and freedom.
It is time we saw children and young people become heirs of the future. This requires us to be ready to accept the other as he or she is, to accompany others in their procession starting from the stage they have reached, and to go beyond ourselves seeking more than what has become familiar to us.
We aspire to see children honest with themselves and open to others. We want them to be realistic in their outlooks, to shoulder full responsibility for their work and emotions, and to be generous towards others. Children should not be afraid to express what they feel. They should go beyond themselves, putting off familiar things in their lives, and deepening their roots in their spiritual and moral values. Will we hold their hands and pave the way for them – since we in this hall have a decision-making authority? “.
Rev. Sadiq concluded his word by thanking His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal for patronizing this workshop. He said:” Lastly, in the name of the children, young people, and their attendants who came from Lebanon of beauty, generous Egypt, Syria of civilization, Palestine of holiness, and Iraq of Faith to discover the Jordan of glory and its humanitarian nature. I extend my gratitude once again to Your Highness for your lofty patronage of this workshop”.
Following that, the child Miss. Hind Farahat, Coordinator of the Fisher Program and Co-chair of the Child Conference for New Generation held in Geneva (17-19 May, 2004), presented the ” Children and Young People’s Message on Living in Peace “, which was presented to the Second Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children. Then she delivered a copy of the Message to His Highness in the name of the GNRC children.
After that, His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal, the Patron of the Workshop, concluded the opening session with a lofty word, which was characterized by the spirit of paternal dialogue.

His Highness said:
” At the outset of my talk, I would like to say that it is a very difficult task for the person who wants to address others; especially that Father Qais and our dear daughter Hind have enriched us with their introductions about the subject under discussion. I will summarize my talk and answer your questions.
I have not come to talk, but to listen. I have not to come to impose a “monologue” about our common needs, which require participation and thus a “dialogue”. I believe that dialogue is the basis for our common understanding. If we want to use these hours efficiently, we must interaction among ourselves because it is a basic element.
Allow me – for the sake of organizing and order, and activating memory for our good – to present to you this book “Will Humanity Win its War?” It belongs to the Independent Body for Humanitarian Affairs. We started working on this book with 28 other nationalities in the early eighties. Allow me to present the topics: The Ethics of Humanitarian Solidarity: Challenge and Framework.
Actually, the story began in 1981. Alexander Hay, the Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, suggested that I host all opposition movements in the world to talk about “The Law of Peace”. During that period in the seventies, we were interested in incorporating the concepts of the Red Cross and concessions regarding the protection of prisoners of war in the “Law of War”. At this point I recall the scandal and abominable actions in Abu Ghuraib Prison a few months ago. During that period, we have to introduce the International Humanitarian Law into the military and security foundation in the world. We posed the question: “Why do not we make the other party aware of it?” That is, the opposition in Latin America, Ireland, and Africa. Of course, this issue might be impossible to deal with because of a word, which has stigmatized everyone, which is “Terrorism”. This word is only used to describe one side of the formula: it is not used to talk about the other side. The conclusion we reached after three decades id that the United Nation’s General Assembly is demanding, annually, the existence of a new humanitarian world order. My office can provide you with all the information related to the new humanitarian world order. People working in this field – realized as I did – in the meeting held in Amman in 1981 that there was a Law of War but not a Law of Peace.
Allow me to say that the humanitarian assemblies, which asked us to carry out researches in world issues, were mostly non-governmental. The first part of world issues included: population and environment, poverty and development, world military preparedness, terrorism, and the international drug problem. That was in 1981. It also included powers of change, new nations, people movements, women, young men, new technology, multi-national companies, and communication means.
The second part included victims, military violence, and weapons of mass destruction, sectarian conflicts, and humanitarian criteria in military conflicts. I am sure that when you hear a lot of talking about peace, you would ask where peace is in comparison to what is taking place on earth.
I can see the three axes of the Workshop: Dialogue and Accepting the Other. Which other? How can we start to accept the other? Are there open and transparent agendas or hidden ones? Are we as group secluded and in solitary? Truth is being monopolized during this stage of our life, whether by Bush or Bin Laden. Where are the common denominators? How can we talk about these subjects when, at the same time, we talk about submitting reports to the national governments when these governments are helpless or not willing to be influential rather than been influenced by others? We have all become slaves. The basic question before us – especially before this generation – is: has our will been enslaved, and have they enslaved our morals? Moreover, as it is said in the European languages: do two wrongs equal one right? Should we repay evil with evil, violence with violence, where by the one who starts doing this is more oppressive? However, if we repay good with good, the one who starts doing this in more beneficial.
I would like to speak now about the second theme, which is Communication and Self Awareness, as well as military violence.
Our brothers and sisters from Lebanon are completely aware of the meaning of military violence. I value a joint film between Al-Jazeera and New TV or ITV. A British company, not a local one, has acquired the film ” 17 hours of the Lebanese War “. There are humanitarian and political dimensions in all the components of war. I am speaking about wars and their ugly aspect because I want to say ” Yes ” to what His Holiness the pope said. We have to refine our memory. However, this requires a conscious study of psychological trauma, which children in particular suffer from during period of conflict.
One area of study specializes in the study of pain. Allow me to mention here that studies about children during the two World Wars have revealed a very important aspect. This aspect says that memory does not dwell about injustice and pain, but it talks about glorifying wars, especially, if families have military victims, the study of humanity about pain. We met hundreds even thousands of representatives of weak groups, that is adolescents. We talked about protection of children. In reference to children (adolescents) in cities, we coined the phrase ” Street children ‘, the refugees, the displaced, group expulsion, absence of governments, our neglected brothers from Palestine, the original people or what is called ethnic cleansing, and the disappearing ones.
Man-made disasters are contemporary food crises, famine, desertation, and the removal of forests. These are all new man made disasters. I remember the time when we were in Stockholm, near Chernobyl, during the weak of Chernobyl leakage. Today, some talk about the possibility of leakage from Demonah, in Israel. Let us talk about our reality. There is an international demand for establishing a new humanitarian world order. I hope the international bodies will be in solidarity in insisting on this demand. This demand had been approved unanimously in the General Assembly of the United Nations. This demand created what is called the culture of accepting international laws and norm.
Yes, there are those who believe that international laws and norms intervene in the internal affairs of countries. However, I say that whoever thinks internationally and works regionally can transfer his or her values to the international arena. In 1939, Mahatma Gandhi said, “Humanity is one family which can not be divided, and each one of us is responsible for the faults of all others”. Where is joint responsibility? Where is citizenship in our Arab World?
As for adolescents (children), we are not always able to build a future for our children, but we are able to build our youth for the future. We cannot change the course of history and the future. But, we can build this nucleus within our morals and ethics, if there are any more ethics worth mentioning in this materialistic world. I am told that sex houses or licensed prostitution are spread everywhere in this world. Within the culture of shame, we are not talking about HIV or AIDS or dealing with drugs because they are not available. Our society is pure, good, and healthy. Unfortunately, these words are contrary to reality.

As the moderator of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, I work in six African countries, in the midst of events there and work with the Coptic churches and with mosques in a fieldwork against the HIV epidemic. In Cambodia and Thailand, we work with the Catholic Church Council and with the Secretariat of the Islamic Council in Asia against Children slavery trade. One and a half million children are, sold every year for sex trade. When we ask the family, ‘ Why? ‘ The father says, ‘I have 18 children. How can I feed them?’ What is paid to the child who is fifteen years old and sold to be later killed to entertain others, is sufficient to support a whole family. There are many atrocities in and outside our region. We are talking about children (adolescents) in the cities, the phenomenon of street children as we defined it. Charles Dickens said, ‘ There is nothing in this small world that children feel with delicacy more than injustice’. This is our reality. How do we deal with it? How do we correct it? How do we remove it from being narrow-minded to the great aspirations and beautiful meanings, which we talked about ? Can we see the beginning of an Arab movement that will implement the first recommendations of this International Report, and thus acquire a complete description of the condition of children in the cities and find out whether they are facing this problem? If this problem exists, it is said that governments must acknowledge its existence and seek to understand the conditions and factors, which caused the problem.
Can we realize that street children are not perverted or going astray just because they are street children? They face the threat of becoming perverted if their needs are not met. As a principal, governments should not resort to security forces unless laws are violated. I leave it to you to understand the meaning of what i just said because you are the ones concerned with this issue. With a background of about three decades of working in this field, I would like to tell you, as I told Father Qais at the entrance, ‘Why me?’ What makes me wake up every morning and prepare for workshops like this one, and then go back to a state of being unable to work? This is related to the state of absence of governments.

There is a statement, which says that the right to citizenship is a basic human right, because it is the right to have rights. Can you advance to the level of the right to have rights, not by submitting a document with stamps to the government, any government, but by practicing these rights within the space available? I believe that the word “quarrelsome” is used to describe those who work in the social arena when they be beyond certain limits. Let me repeat and say that despotism stars where the law ends. In addition, I want to say that these situations are more important than the capabilities of governments and their specialized ministries.

When we started the process of educational reform, ten years ago – and I think the first stage, which I had the honor to supervise, was completed last year – I always said that educational reform was more important than the Ministry of Education by itself. All these subjects by themselves are included in the comprehensive concept. Herein lies the axis of communication and self-awareness. Knowing you in part of my self-awareness because we are talking about self-awareness in a narrow framework within a wide circle of knowledge. However, communication allows me to get to know others. I always say: If you want to go out and have dinner with your close friends, this is an easy matter because it is communication with your say: If you want to go out and have dinner with your close frien beloved. But what about our ability to understand the other person’s perspective? I hope you will refer to the culture of acceptance in the international laws and norms. If you want to do this, I am ready to help “.

HR Highness sent his greetings to Rev. Miyamoto, and the Arigatou Foundation for their task for serving the childhood worldwide. After open discussions with the participants, HR Highness wished the participants success in their work.

Memorial photos were taken of the participants and the Patron of their journey, His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal. May God bless his efforts and grant him good health! This was followed by a reception for the participants and those invited, who exchanged experiences and ideas.
The First Session was dedicated to a reading in children’s right to living in peace, which was presented by Rev. Dr. Qais Sadiq. He discussed the concept of “Right” and “Peace” in the philosophical, juridical and religious context.
The Second Session was dedicated to discussing “The Concept of Peace and Reconciliation “. The Palestinian child Miss. Israr Ibrahim presented thisated to disscussing ” The Concept of Peace and Reconciliation “> The Palestinian child Miss.ry of Jor topic starting from the life experiences of the children in Palestine in particular, and the whole region in general.
After that, the participants joined five working groups to discuss the subject presented in the previous two sessions, starting from their life experiences in this Region.
The session after dinner was designated to present the activities of some of the organizations participating in the workshop.

On the Third Day, in the morning, the participants visited the historical sites of the city of Amman, including the Roman amphitheatre, the Citadel, and the National Museum of Archeology. In the afternoon, they visited the ancient city of Jerash. It is worth noting that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities hosted the participants during their visits to the historical sites.
The First Session on the Fourth Day was dedicated to discussing the subject “Knowing One’s Self “, which was presented by the Syrian child Mr. Dani Hakimeh, assisted by the Syrian child Miss. Dona Rifqa. However, discussion of the subject had to be postponed because the participants headed towards the Prime Ministry to meet Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Khader, the official Spokesperson of the Government and Minister of Information, to deliver to her a copy of the ” Children and Young People’s Message on Living in Peace “.

In an open meeting characterized by a family spirit without the usual protocols, Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Khader received the participants in a session of open dialogue in the Prime Ministry. After Archimandrite Dr. Qais Sadiq had given her a brief survey of the GNRC and shared the objectives and nature of the Workshop, Her Excellency Mrs. Khader welcomed the participants and conveyed to them the greetings of the His Excellency The Prime Minister- who could not attend the meeting because he was leaving Jordan – and his wishes of a successful workshop. His Excellency emphasized the importance and need of focusing on the role of children and adolescents in building a good, promising future based on peace and reconciliation and on accepting the other. She also mentioned the need to establish more networks to accomplish the above-mentioned aim and hold similar workshops on the local and regional levels.
After,Caroline Zahm and Hind Farahat, who participated to the Second Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children, in Geneva, gave an introduction on the components and content of the ” Children and Young People’s Message on Living in Peace “. Miss. Hind Farahat presented to Her Excellency in the name of the GNRC children a copy of the Message to be submitted to the Prime Minister and to their Majesties King Abdullah the Second, and Queen Rania.
Her Excellency promised to work on fulfilling the participants’ desire and offered them memorial gifts. Then she met them in a reception and took some photographs with them. Television interviews were done with some participants.

During the Second Session the “Concept of Communication Skills” was presented by Dani Hakimeh. Sister Emiline Tannous, Head of Holy Hearts College in Marjeyoun, Lebanon, gave an introduction on the “Concept of Dialogue and the Other”. She emphasized the fact that dialogue is openness towards the other, who is any human being, because humanity is one in all human beings.

This topic was presented primarily by the Palestinian children Miss. Sunbula Zatmeh, and Miss. Izabella Bishara.
The working groups provided an opportunity for dialogue, where the participants discussed the themes and topics, which were presented during that day. At the end of the day, activities of some participating organizations were exhibited.
On the Fifth Day the participants visited the historical sites of the city of Madaba, and Mount Nebo, and after noon they experienced swimming ( floating ) in the Dead Sea.
On the Sixth Day the participants completed the work of the working groups in the morning sessions. The afternoon session was dedicated to writing the reports and recommendations as well as to drafting the final statement. In the final session, this statement was announced and approved by the participants.

The participants spent the final evening together with some families of Jordanian participants. It was a real witness to the strong relationship of love and goodwill among the participants during the Workshop. In the hope of implementing the recommendations of the final statement, the participants departed in the morning of the seventh day after they had agreed on the following formula as their motive to work on practicing it in their societies: How can “I + YOU = WE ? “…… as Children of GNRC .

The participants in the GNRC Amman Child Regional Workshop on ” My Right is to Live in Peace!”, held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, by the initiative of the Ecumenical Studies Center in Amman, Jordan, in partnership with the Global Network of Religions for Children, Japan, between 22-28 May 2004, at Firas Palace Hotel in Amman, who represent the GNRC member organizations in the Arab World,

Convey their thankfulness and appreciation to His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who was kind enough to patronize this Workshop and who enriched it with his instructions, guidance, deep vision and pertinent opinions,

Also, convey their gratitude to the Arigatou Foundation for kind support to this workshop,

Since the participants believe that the positive role of children and adolescents in building society by means of their effective participation in implementing bonds of love, peace, pedagogy of dialogue, and accepting the other,

Denounce the flagrant violation of International Law and human rights against the Arab children and adolescents in Iraq and Palestine; and

Pledge to work in activating the establishment of a network for children and adolescents of the GNRC in order to have constructive communication with the children and adolescents of the GNRC in other regions. The aim will be to develop and build the Network and to urge their organizations to activate partnership among themselves and between them and civil, formal government, and religious sectors and bodies as well regional and international organizations interested in educating children in a spirit of peace, love, and respect for the other. This is all to strengthen cooperation, which aims at drawing up strategies related to educating children in a better way and following recommendations of the workshop:

A. In the Area of Educational Formation

1. To urge governments and bodies interested in educational formation to educate children and adolescents in Peace Building education, promoting the concept of reconciliation, training them in pedagogy of dialogue and accepting the other, and training them in knowing and discovering one’s self by means of preparing and equipping educators and teachers and sharpening their educational skills.

2. To improve the quality of teaching by developing school curricula and providing educational tools and materials on civil education and educational counseling, which are based on activating religious and behavioral values and principles which are common among religions and which promote the concept of peace, reconciliation, tolerance, dialogue, loving and accepting the other, as well as respecting the diversity of culture and faith.

3. To have effective participation in international and regional gatherings which focus on issues related to the formation of children and adolescents.

B. In the Area of Media

1. To urge governments and concerned organizations to produce media programs (films, magazines, and stories) targeting children and adolescents to promote the concept of peace, dialogue, self-knowledge as well as to employ modern technologies which aim at speaking to the children’s conscience and informing them of society’s problems and how to address challenges which they face in peaceful ways.

2. Carrying out awareness campaigns on peace building education, reconciliation, pedagogy of dialogue, and knowledge of one’s self in schools, universities, and sports clubs as well as distributing pamphlets on these issues.

General Recommendations

1. Adopting the speech of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal as a main working document to follow up the proceedings of the Workshop;
2. Holding similar workshop annually;
3. Calling upon international and national organizations to intensify their efforts for the welfare and development of children, and linking the organizations involved in child issues in the Arab World with the resources available to them;
4. Encouraging studies and research related to disseminating and supporting values of peace, dialogue, and knowing one’s self in the context of educational formation;
5. Supporting and enhancing the role of national and voluntary organizations which are working in the field of serving and forming childhood;
6. Encouraging and supporting the exchange of children’s and adolescents’ experiences locally, regionally, and internationally in order to sharpen their personal skills, train them, encourage them to give and participate, and to develop a sense of belongingness among them;
7. Establishing an electronic site, especially for the participants in this workshop;
8. Translating the recommendations of the Workshop into English and French and disseminating them as an experience from the Arab Region and ;
10. Working on following up the implementation of the Workshop decisions.

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