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Saturday, January 17, 2015, Magh 4, 1421, Robiul Awal 25, 1436 Hijr


Cultural heritage and peace education in Bangladesh
Published : Saturday, 17 January, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 20
Mahbubuddin Chowdhury
Cultural heritage is regarded as one of the most important issues through which civilizations have been unearthed and the past historical events have been brought to light. Through this we determine our identity since this helps us identify and recognize our line of inheritance as generations. On the other hand, the issue of Peace Education has grown with importance since it enables people to undermine the importance of preserving cultural heritage with the assistance and co-ordination of Peace Education.
Cultural heritage can be described as the cultural legacy inherited from previous generations, a legacy which we often want to identify and preserve because it reinforces our cultural identity or sense of who we are as a people. It has been observed that communities and nations are interested in celebrating and preserving their heritage, and governments have enacted laws to protect cultural resources. Throughout history the term 'cultural heritage' has had many different meanings. Recent decades have seen the concept of heritage - much like that of culture - undergoing significant changes.
While speaking of cultural heritage we must distinguish between 'Tangible Cultural Heritage' and 'Intangible Cultural Heritage'. It is observed that tangible cultural heritage is the type of heritage which includes archaeological sites, artefacts, buildings, historic sites, monuments, graves, and culturally significant landscapes such as sacred places, which stand as records of our past history and our achievements. Again intangible cultural heritage is the type of heritage which includes language, oral histories, beliefs, practices, rituals, ceremonies, customs, traditions, music, dance, crafts, and other arts, which exist in our lives in various forms even with the changing civilizations and cultural attitudes, which may have altered with modernization and impacts of foreign culture. Both these types help in the identification of the identity of races, people and civilizations.
The modern concept of cultural heritage in our time is an open one. In order to properly maintain and guarantee the future existence of world heritage sites, cultural heritage law is absolutely vital to states, intergovernmental organizations and non-State actors. The most important international organization that deals with cultural heritage is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO has been charged with assisting states to develop legal instruments to better protect cultural heritage and to also help in updating and reforming cultural policies.
Peace education is an integral part of the work of the United Nations. Peace education is the process of acquiring the 'values', the 'knowledge' and developing 'the attitudes, skills, and behaviours' to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment. Through a humanizing process of teaching and learning, peace educators facilitate human development. They strive to counteract the dehumanization of poverty, prejudice, discrimination, rape, violence, and war. Originally aimed at eliminating the possibility of global extinction through nuclear war, peace education currently addresses the broader objective of building and sustaining a culture of peace. In this global effort, progressive educators world-wide are teaching the values, standards and principles articulated in fundamental UN instruments such as the UN Charter, Human Rights documents, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the World Declaration on Education for All, and many others.
Regarding the importance of peace education, there are numerous United Nations declarations on the importance of peace education. Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, has dedicated the International Day of Peace 2013 to peace education in an effort to refocus minds and financing on the pre-eminence of peace education as the means to bring about a culture of peace. Ian Harris and John Synott have described peace education as a series of 'teaching encounters' that draw from people: their desire for peace. James Page suggests peace education be thought of as 'encouraging a commitment to peace as a settled disposition and enhancing the confidence of the individual as an individual agent of peace; as informing the student on the consequences of war and social injustice; on the value of peaceful and just social structures. Johan Galtung suggested in 1975 that no theory for peace education existed and that there was clearly an urgent need for such theory.
Since the early decades of the 20th century, 'peace education' programmes around the world have represented a spectrum of focal themes, including anti-nuclearism, international understanding, environmental responsibility, communication skills, non-violence, conflict resolution techniques, democracy, human rights awareness, tolerance of diversity, coexistence and gender equality. Some addressed spiritual dimensions of inner harmony. While academic discourse on the subject has increasingly recognized the need for a broader, more holistic approach to peace education, a review of field-based projects reveals that three variations of peace education are most common as a process of worldview transformation.
In Bangladesh as in many other countries these three variations of peace education have been related with cultural heritage in the following ways, namely, conflict resolution training, democracy education, human rights education and worldview transformation.
1. Conflict resolution training: Peace education programmes centred on conflict resolution typically focus on the social-behavioural symptoms of conflict, training individuals to resolve inter-personal disputes through techniques of negotiation and (peer) mediation. There are various styles or approaches in conflict resolution training that can give the practitioner the means to accept the conflicting situation and orient it towards a peaceful resolution.
2. Democracy education: Peace education programmes centred on democracy education typically focus on the political processes associated with conflict, and postulate that with an increase in democratic participation the likelihood of societies resolving conflict through violence and war decreases. Based on the assumption that democracy decreases the likelihood of violence and war, it is assumed that these are the same skills necessary for creating a culture of peace.
3. Human rights education: Peace education programmes centred on raising awareness of human rights typically focus at the level of policies that humanity ought to adopt in order to move closer to a peaceful global community. The aim is to engender a commitment among participants to a vision of structural peace in which all individual members of the human race can exercise their personal freedoms and be legally protected from violence, oppression and indignity.
4. Worldview transformation: New approaches to peace education are starting from insights gleaned from psychology which recognize the developmental nature of human psychosocial dispositions. Essentially, while conflict-promoting attitudes and behaviours are characteristic of earlier phases of human development, unity-promoting attitudes and behaviours emerge in later phases of healthy development.
Keeping the above issues in mind, as we progressed in Bangladesh, we conclude by saying that peace education is necessary for the various types of recognition, preservation, understanding, focusing and promotion of cultural heritage in order to achieve the following:
1. Considering cultural heritage and contemporary creativity as tools for building peace through dialogue, peace education is essential
2. Developing relevant tools, policies and frameworks for enhancing mutual understanding through shared histories, cultural mediation and cultural diplomacy, which can be achieved through peace education.
3. Promoting cultural heritage in all its forms as a powerful and unique tool for sustainable social, economic and human development, social cohesion, education and mutual understanding, thus bringing forth new opportunities for international cooperation, which can be achieved through the UNESCO Clubs of each country, through peace education.
4. Building on the cohesive power of cultural heritage in all its forms and dimensions (tangible and intangible, movable and museums, documentary heritage) and contributing to the enhancement of creativity, dialogue and cultural exchanges, developing innovative approaches to the safeguarding and promotion of heritage and culture-sensitive development projects, peace education is required in all attempts for achievement.r
Mahbubuddin Chowdhury is Secretary-General, National Association of UNESCO Clubs in Bangladesh (NAUCB). E-mail: [email protected]





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