On Saturday; 9th of June 2012,
At the Mar Elias Educational Institutions – Theology Hall – ‘Ibillin
Al-Liqa’ Center and Sabeel Center sponsored a study day on Saturday 9th of June of 2012 which aimed at examining the curricula of the Israeli Ministry of Education’s Arabic program concerning the issue of “Shared Living” between the children of the followers of the three monotheistic religions and especially that of the ِArabic language and literature, history and religious education books. The study day was attended by religious figures including H. E. Bishop Elias Chaccour, H. E. Bishop Atallah Hanna, H. E. Bishop Butros Al-Mu’allem and from other sectors of society. Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek welcomed those attending the study day on behalf of Al-Liqa’ and Sabeel Centers. H. E. Bishop Elias Chaccour also welcomed the audience. He pointed out that books are not mere educational tools but, in addition, they portray the “other”.
He added that the peace process starts around school desks when children of all religions – Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews write their common history. H. E. Atallah Hanna added that the curricula should be a factor of tolerance in religious and social areas. He pointed out that recently we started to hear sectarian voices calling for uprisings in all Arab areas as if there is a plan to undo all constructive relations and to divide the nation into warring sects and factions.
Following the opening words, three sessions took place. Dr. Johny Mansour focused on history books and the Israeli Ministry of Education curricula. Clearly the curriculum is made in accordance with instructions from the Israeli Shabak which suppresses Arab identity. Likewise, Dr. Mansour compared curricula in Jewish and Arab schools through many examples from school books. It is time to review the present curricula of the Ministry of Education.
Dr. Hussein Mansour commented on Dr. Johny Mansour’s lecture. He added that the curricula in neighboring Arab countries aim at nurturing Arab and Muslim citizens while the Israeli curricula ignore that. Ibtisam Mu’allem was the moderator of the first session.
In the second session Mr. Ziad Shleweit lectured on Arabic language and literature books and surveyed the content of literature and grammar books which deal with the monotheistic religions and the Arabic and Islamic heritage and modern literature. He stressed that the curricula do not contribute to “Shared Living”. Only the capable teacher can benefit from religions and literary texts. He is the only one who can perform this task. There is a dire need of the Arabic language curriculum committee to introduce “Shared Living” in the new books. Dr. Muhammad Safurri commented on the lecture stressing that the curricula committee is not free to change content. There is the official censor. But he underlined the importance of teacher in class. He criticized the undermining of the Arab language by our students, the educated sector and empowering foreign languages instead.
In the third session of the study day Dr. Geries S. Khoury focused on religious education books and especially Islamic and Christian books that are used in schools pointing out the positive and negative elements in them. Each religion tries to emphasize its unique message while ignoring the other religions. If we do not plant the common good in religious education, then it will be impossible to do the same thing in history and language books. Education is the safety valve for shared living in our countries.
At the end of the study day a panel was held to discuss the proceeding of the study day. All those attending the study day participated in the panel. Panel members underlined the importance of the gathering and the lectures held in the study day. All agreed that there is a need for future study days to discuss matters in depth in the presence of school teachers. Each study day will discuss different topics at the end of which a conference will be held attended by local church leaders in order to adopt the recommendations. There was a demand to hold frequent Christian Muslim meetings fully supported by both Christian and Muslim religious figures.