THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN THE DYNAMIC AND EFFICIENCY OF YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN INTERFAITH DIALOGUE.
Professor Dr. Anton Caragea MA, FINS, EDA
Summary: The youth presence in inter-faith dialogue is a reflection of the growing role and influence of younger generation in world affairs. Sociological date is conveying a clear picture of the increasing role of young generation in economical, cultural and political transformation across the globe.
This increasing role and responsibility of youth must also be reflected in the presence of the younger generation in the religious debate and especially in the role of religion as a peace building tool.
The young generation can carve for herself a powerful role in inter-faith dialogue based on the necessity of activism, preeminent role of new media powered by internet and technology and the role of education and formative process in fostering the efficiency of inter-faith dialogue.
The dynamic of youth presence in decision making process.
The role of youth in the world affairs is increasing as the dynamic of population and the share of the youth in the world economy, social and politics affairs is increasing.
According to United Nations Population Division-Department of Economic and Social Affairs youth shear of population will encompass an unparalleled growth from 26% percent ( July 2013) to 38% percent by 2050 and in total the segment of the young population ( bellow 44 according to UN statistics) will grow to around 72% percent of world population.
This social dynamic will insure that by 2050, the driving force of the economic, social and cultural affairs of the world will be the youth population.
This transition from a majority of the world population appertaining to the 45-to 64 years of age generation to a majority appertaining to the 15 to 44 years of age, will be the driving force for changes in economic, social and political structure of the world.
The economic and social data are compelling a convincing case towards an increase stake in the world affairs dedicated to the young population and the philosophical and historical research had started to take under consideration this new role of young generation.
The educational experts are unanimously appreciating that, the period from 15 to 44 years of age is the period of educational development, of information accumulation and on the building and consolidation of the memory and decision making process and the sentiments etc. impending on the life status.
This period of life is instrumental in creating and shaping the role and position of individual in the social mechanism and role play in society.
Taking under consideration the social and economic impact of the generational power shifting, we must to carve a place and a role for youth in the interfaith dialogue not only as a subject of the interfaith dialogue, but also as a actor and a power broker in the future of interfaith dialogue.
Youth and religion: sociological aspects.
Before we extend our research on the role and traditional view of the youth in the interfaith dialogue, will be useful to analyze the sociological data`s available on the role of young generation in understanding and forming personal religious values.
As the fallowing charts are exploring, indifferent to the regions of the world, economic disparities and religious denomination we are experiencing an area of common factors:
Reading sacred texts
Outside of attending religious services, about how often do you read the Bible, Koran, Torah, or other sacred book? (Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 2, 2007)
Reading Sacred Texts (Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 2, 2007)
About how often do you pray? (General Social Survey 2010 Cross-Section and Panel Combined)
Frequency of prayer (General Social Survey 2010 Cross-Section and Panel Combined)
– The ever increasing number of persons that are declaring themselves as religious persons, but are not reading the sacred texts of their religion etc. As the statistic are illustrating , almost 41% percents of them are not reading their fundamentals texts. This phenomena is captured and in other statistics that are also emphasizing on the poor understanding of the sacred texts, of the lack of historical and linguistic context of the sacred texts analysis and the insufficient educational background of their own religion.
The most dramatic, is the discrepancy between the religious feeling and living the religion as a part of everyday life and the accuracy of theological knowledge. This gap between a sentimental approach to religion and a knowledge based approach to the religion fundamental texts is the most dangerous phenomenon of our days.
As the US researcher David Little observes: ″ This can lead to inflexibility and intolerance in the face of other beliefs. After all, if it is the word of God, how can one compromise it? At the same time, scripture and dogma are often vague and open to interpretation. Therefore, conflict can arise over whose interpretation is the correct one, a conflict that ultimately cannot be solved because there is no arbiter. The winner generally is the interpretation that attracts the most followers. However, those followers must also be motivated to action. Although, almost invariably, the majority of any faith hold moderate views, they are often more complacent, whereas extremists are motivated to bring their interpretation of God’s will to fruition″.
The liberal and the positive view on religion, cannot exist without the proper knowledge of the religious text, of the historical background of the ways to interpret the religious message and in the absence of a strong cultural base.
Taking under consideration these factors, we cannot separate the analyses of the role of young generation in the interfaith dialogue from the cultural and educational base of the religious education.
This is equally essential to the Christianity, Islam and Hebrew faith`s, al the three monotheistic religions of the world and I will like to emphasize also the special view of the Islamic world on education as the scholar Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman noted in his essay, Culture, Science and Technology: How to respond to contemporary Changes:″ Umma was build on the bases of tawhid and istikhlaf-the search of knowledge and the personal and community responsibility″  Christianity by the authoritative voices of Saint Toma D`Aquino and St. Francis of Assisi and Judaism by the voice of Moses ben Maimon-Maimonde, also advocated on education and sciences as the necessary director and chaperones of a true faith.
The role of education in promoting inter-faith dialogue.
As we can see, there is a general consensus in all the monotheistic religions upon the role of education in building, not only a correct understanding of one’s religion but also to foster the inter-faith dialogue.
A dialogue, in absence of education and culture, will never bear any fruits on the religious dilemmas.
As such we have to be aware that, especially in the case of religious education an important responsibility is incumbent on the family role in promoting the values of the true religious.
As many researchers have underlined the bases of religious fundamental core values are instilled in the early years of education under family supervision.
For this we have to create a family environment inclusive and directing the education of religious feeling and information`s, towards a comprehensive and open view on religion based on tolerance, acceptance of the other, acceptance of the right to his own faith and beliefs.
A family education, inducing of these values, will be in the future the first and foremost bulwark against extremism and radical view of religion.
More recent works, held under United States Institute of Peace banner ( under US Senate control) had emphasize on the importance of education patterns, laid out by educational authorities in all the country`s in creating a special type of personality for their future citizens.
As such, many countries are emphasizing on the obedience of their citizens, on discrimination and reduced information curricula and avoid developing traits of character such as self-decision process making, initiative spirit, freedom in attitude and responsibility.
These schemes of education are known in educational psychology as authoritative personalities, more prone to be influenced by the fundamentalism, more inclined to radicalism and non-acceptance of the others.
The issues of education in the family, in the private area of the individual life but also on the public, official education, are intricately bond together in the necessity of building a young generation capable to confront the challenges of XXI century with an independent, educated, open-minded person, filled with initiative and resilience and capable to resist the call of the fundamentalism as an easy way out and an expediency.
In educating this young part of the society, the inter-faith dialogue could take a center stage, as no subject is more difficult, more sensitive but also more important for the future adult as the role of religion in one’s life.
In order to achieve a meaningful inter-religious related education, the experts are unanimous in emphasizing the importance of the main elements of religious education as such: teacher ( essential in conveying the message, selecting the topic and transmitting not only information`s related to inter-faith dialogue but also sentiments and attitudes), textbook ( the necessity is to create special textbooks related to inter-faith dialogue and composed by relevant information`s about monotheistic religions, promoting dialogue and creating relevant base of educational fragments of religious texts promoting common dialogue) and students ( they must not be regarded solely as passive receptors of informational and educational guidelines, but as creators of content related to inter-faith dialogue.)
The most recent studies shows conclusive that students and participants in inter-faith dialogue can have valuable experience to share in order to crystallize a better understanding of inter faith dialogue.
Other researchers and sociological studies are emphasizing the necessity, not only to have the right environment for inter-faith dialogue, the right promoters and the perfect textbooks, but also to keep in mind the context and the desired outcomes of inter-faith dialogue.
The first two decades of inter-faith dialogue, in 1990 and 2000, did not produced many positive outcomes, because they did not proposed a specific agenda after the informational and educational presentation of inter faith dialogue benefits.
Today, in a conflict driven world, the key role of inter-faith dialogue in producing peace and better understanding in international relations, but also in internal affairs of communities and countries all around the world is widely accepted.
In order to maximize the utility of education and inter-faith dialogue, we must encompass the fallowing themes in our scheme of inter-religious dialogue:
– promoting multiple identities and enhancing the inter-faith dialogue. The psychological analyses on inter faith dialogue are conclusive in promoting the idea that : the best way to confront radicalism and isolation is to assume the multiple identity, not only as a member of a religion, but also as a member of a nation, of a social group, of an ethnic message.
This vision of a multi-layered person is essential in promoting mutual understanding.
– regarding young people as a part of the solutions to address the issues of inter-faith dialogue and not only an amorphous part of educational process.
– promoting respects and diversity and sharing experiences and useful good practices in inter-faith dialogue
– carving active roles for participants in inter-faith dialogue based on assuming responsibilities, in creating practitioner`s themes and in getting involved in solving faith driven conflicts.
Inter-faith dialogue must not remain a sterile discussion or an intellectual fashion, but must be used as a creator of educational and character transformation and as a ferment for an active and problem solving oriented society.
– Creating mechanism`s to evaluate and to decide what is working in inter-faith dialogue and shares this good practice guide as base for foster future initiatives in this field.
The main theme of and efficient inter-faith dialogue structured on the educational values must be center on:
- Knowing and understanding The Other, as a part of the society, as a part of the existence and as a part of the dialogue.
- Understanding the structure of the inter-faith dialogue. This special kind of dialogue is not based on a winner-looser situation and is not concluded by obtaining a conversion to the others ideas, but is a win-win situation, based on educational enrichment and on accepting the difference.
- Fighting the stereotypes of the cultural and religious idiosyncrasy and the tradition and even the historical conceptions or fabricated myths in order to have a clear idea about the partner in dialogue and about your own values and ideas.
- Understanding vs. tolerance. Another misconception of the bases of inter-faith dialogue is the fact that the main issue must be tolerance as an outcome. Tolerance is only a first step of many, on the road to acceptance and understanding The Other in his true nature. Tolerance is not the end game of inter-faith dialogue it is just the beginning of the dialogue.
- Recent researchers are shading a signal of alarm, regarding the understanding of interfaith dialogue as a part of exotic and not authenticity. Inter-faith dialogue is based on the creeds of millions and is not an exotique display of one’s idea, or rites or cloth`s, but is based on reality and on the mutual understanding.
The main sentiment, that is a part of a true inter-faith dialogue, is the defeat of Manichaeism vision about the world and one`s religion, the end of the partition of the world in good and bad, in right and wrongs.
Main tasks and advantages of youth presence in inter-faith dialogue
In order to foster and promote the positive role of youth in inter-faith dialogue, we have to take under consideration the fallowing opportunities and key aspects of establishing a large and inclusive and result oriented inter-religions dialogue.
– The main task in youth driven dialogue must be to develop programs for interfaith reading of sacred texts in order to educate, inform, and deepen understanding of one another.
– Keeping in mind the active role that young generation must play in inter-faith dialogue a special attention must be paid for creating task forces of activists that are creating an inclusive environment for peaceful coexistence. This can be more effectively advanced by having activists in the three communities develop a common agenda for the future in order to facilitate commitments across lines and divisions of religions.
– In order to achieve an efficient and coherent action of such young powered inter-faith dialogue practitioner`s teams strenuous activities should be made to develop explanatory teaching materials about the three monotheistic traditions in order to be used in various levels in the educational structure and also for a special inter-faith courses. For special educational materials will be recommended an anthology on the three Monotheistic-Abrahamic traditions to be used for inter-faith promoters. In addition, courses need to be developed on Monotheistic peacemaking, teaching how the three faith traditions understand and promote peace.
– Especially it will be useful to capitalize on the educational role of learning by doing and to create young inter-faith practitioner and promotion teams composed of representatives from the three faith traditions in order to intervene in situations of inter-faith driven conflict and tension.
– In conflict turn area, or in role play assessment we need to develop shared mourning processes surrounding death, destruction, and injustice, particularly in relation to terrorism and acts of governmental oppression.
– As youth learning experience is driven by sentiments and affective memory a special place must be created for a process that is encompass and promote acts that express repentance and facilitate reconciliation and mutual forgiveness.
– It is essential to understand that the religious dialogue must also address the economic, cultural and political agenda that is fostering the conflict. Young generation is interested also in building a positive and realistic agenda addressing and the non-religious issues of any conflict.
– Introducing in young diplomats training the manuals and information`s regarding to the role and powerful place that religious inter-faith dialogue promoters and peace builders can play in the promotion of peace and reconciliation by dialogue.
– The role of new media’s such as: blogs, websites, and newsletters, e-mail campaigns etc. is instrumental in order to promote the main themes of inter-faith dialogue and to foster the role of religion in peace building and the actions and ideas of religious extremists that are generating interfaith fear and hostility etc.
The youth presence in the inter-faith dialogue must be fostered and sponsored in as thus process can offer a large area of opportunities.
The largest and more productive presence of youth in inter-faith dialogue is a necessary response to the demographic and political changes that are imposing the young generation as an even more important decisional factor in world affairs that it have ever was.
The dynamic and result oriented role of young generation is also essential in achieving faster and more clear results via constructing teams of practitioner`s in inter-faith dialogue and promoters of such type of dialogue.
The role of new media are also carving a space for young generation to have a more active role in promoting dialogue and information related to peace building based on inter-faith dialogue.
 David Little, “Belief, Ethnicity, and Nationalism” http://www.usip.org/religionpeace/rehr/belethnat.html.
 Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman, Culture, Science and Technology: How to respond to contemporary changes, American Journal of Islamic Social science 19, no.3, 2002, pag.79
 An interesting view on education and inter-faith dialogue can be observed in the article by Interfaith Dialogue and Religious Education by Zainal Abidin Bagir, Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies, Graduate School, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia available at http://erb.unaoc.org/images/JournalArticles/bagir.pdf
 Cruelty and Kindness: A New Look at Aggression and Altruism by Harvey A. Hornstein: Authoritarians – which would be extreme Parent-dominated types. One major defect? These people almost automatically discriminate between people – and reject those they consider as unworthy or not on their level, morally or in other ways. To these people: “Not all humans are created equal”(pag.40).
 See Sonia Nieto, Affirming Diversity–The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, 2000, 5th Ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon
 For example the Australian authorities announced that are creating a manual listing the good experiences in inter-faith dialogue at community level in Australia.
 More information on this issue and the practice side of implementing youth driven programs in the area of inter-faith dialogue could be obtain by reading the latest article of United States Institute of Peace editorial board regarding: USIP Running ‘PeaceTech Camps’ in Iraq at http://www.usip.org/publications/usip-running-peacetech-camps-in-iraq