Dear Educators, Students and Friends of Human Rights:
As you begin this school year, the news and maybe your own streets are filled with turmoil surrounding the re-emergence of violent White nationalist, neo-Nazi and racial separatists groups chanting slogans, cracking heads and seeking to drive peaceful protesters and community members out of the public square. There are also community groups who are rising up to resist and oppose hatred, divisiveness and the dehumanizing of immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA people. Sometimes even this resistance is tempted to return violence for violence, hatred for hatred.
Your students, be they preschoolers or young adults are observing, soaking in the rhetoric, the news clips, the definitions of society portrayed. They will be looking to us educators, to community elders and their own elders to provide them with tools to make sense of what is happening and to form their own definitions of who they are, what they believe in and where they stand. We all have an obligation to stand up against hatred, violence, nationalistic intolerance, racial bigotry, demonizing of immigrants and refugees, gender intolerance.
One suggestion, detailed here with sample lessons and links to websites is to build some lessons and class discussions around the theme of this year's International Day of Peace, to be celebrated on September 21.
In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly declared September 21st as the International Day of Peace, a day each year for people around the world to stop for a moment and recommit to working for peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
The theme for 2017 is "Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All." This focus is drawn from TOGETHER, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for refugees and migrants (http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/). TOGETHER unites the members of the United Nations, their citizens and their public and private institutions in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants.
"In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. "We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbors as 'the other'. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people - and societies - from achieving their full potential." He added, "Together, let us build bridges; let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights."
Please take some time in your classes and together in your school to explore the theme of Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. Included with this invitation are sample lessons, websites and links to materials students and teachers can use for class-based or school-based projects to build a culture of respect and dignity where everyone feels safe.
THANK YOU,Rosemary Blanchard, ChairHuman Rights Education Community