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Give Peace A Chance!…

November, 2007
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1907-2007: Celebrating 100 Years of Montessori

“The child would appear among us as the teacher of peace. We must gather around him to learn the mystery of humanity, to discover in him the mystery of a fundamental goodness that our outer lives and acts belie. That is the source of the knowledge that interests us most of all. If we truly yearn for brotherhood and understanding among men, there must also be brotherhood and understanding between the adult and the child!”

                                                             Dr. Maria Montessori

2007_centenary_img01 The Olympic Games are around the corner. The clock is ticking, and almost everywhere in China we can see the digital clocks counting the seconds, minutes, days to go before the big date. Everyone and everything is getting ready. For any country the investment is huge, and the importance of having the honor to host the games is always held in high regard. China is no exception.

  This is yet another opportunity for people to get together and put aside differences. Not that politics are not part of the game, because they are, but it is important to focus on what is essential. The practical matters related to the games, their organization, the logistics, etc., will be soon a thing of the past. What we will recall in years to come is their symbolism and what was done once again to bring people together under a climate of joyfulness and peace. What was done and accomplished as the turmoil of world politics paused and the eyes of the world turned to Beijing.

  In March 2001, an "Olympic Games and Peace Exhibition" opened in Osaka at the Osaka International Peace Centre. According to a spokesman from the Osaka International Peace Center, the objective of the exhibition was to "consider how, through Osaka’s Olympic Bid, the Olympic Games can promote world peace".

  Speaking of the then upcoming 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, a journalist recalled that the original Olympic Games were more than just about sport and athletics. They were a form of peacemaking among the numerous city-states of the Peloponnese, the Aegean, the Adriatic and Asia Minor. Competition for honor and awards, not for territory, was the main aim of the Games, with the torch of harmony lighting the way forward.2007_centenary_img03

  It is commonly believed that the Games began in 776 BC (the starting date of ancient Greece) and were held every fifth year, with very few breaks, right up to the fifth century AD.

  When their date was proclaimed, any wars that were being waged in the country automatically ceased. Monarchies and democracies alike declared a truce for the period of the Olympiad. Each city-state sent its great men as ambassadors to the Games, with valuable gifts to be laid in the Treasuries of the Gods. Then, the meeting to witness the Games provided the perfect opportunity to discuss terms of peace in an atmosphere of goodwill. Many a bitter conflict was stopped by the announcement of an Olympiad and was never resumed afterwards, to general relief and common betterment.

  Athens 2004 went on to partner with UNICEF as part of its effort to spread the principles and ideals of the Olympic Games and peace to children worldwide; holding the Olympic Youth Camp, in which 450 young children participated, having a chance to enjoy cultural events, visit archaeological sites, watch the Olympic Games and participate in meetings organized by UNICEF. It was expected that these "Child Champions," would come to support sports as a means of young people’s development. The meetings were also to help them cultivate leadership and communication skills and to encourage them to act as young sports ambassadors in 2007_centenary_img04their country in issues related to children.

   In that same year, Greece proposed the idea of the Olympic Truce, as dedicated in ancient Greece to the spirit of fraternity and understanding between peoples, to the agenda of UNESCO’s executive board, and a statement was issued, signed by many personalities, from state presidents to politicians, artists, religious leaders, and people in the field of sports, to promote once again the idea of Olympic Truce or Ekecheiria, in the hope that it would lead to the ceasing of all hostilities during the Olympic Games. It was understood that “the period of the Olympic Games, and beyond, should provide an opportunity for such a dialogue and the search for durable solutions for the restoration of peace in all areas of conflict,” clearly mentioning that the first victims of conflict “are the children, the youth, women and the aged.” It continued to stress that “Humanity’s quest is for a world free of hatred, terrorism and war; where ideals of peace, goodwill and mutual respect form the basis of relations among peoples and countries. The goal may still remain elusive, but if the Olympic Truce can help us to bring about even a brief respite from conflict and strife, it will send a powerful message of hope to the international community.”

  A call was then made to “1. Urge world leaders, governments and international organizations, to give peace a chance and to agree to join efforts to use the Olympic Truce as an instrument to promote peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict and strife; 2. Pledge to exercise our best efforts to ensure that the Olympic Truce appeal is observed in our countries and in our region during the upcoming Olympic Games as a way of promoting goodwill and encouraging the peaceful settlement of conflicts in full conformity with the purposes and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations; and, 3. Pledge to support and disseminate, individually and collectively, the symbolic call for Olympic Truce throughout all future Olympic Games and beyond, and to exercise our best efforts within our communities, countries and relevant international organizations to achieve its recognition and observance.”2007_centenary_img05

  For 2008, and as usual when an event as important as the Olympic Games, which calls for everyone’s participation, comes around; China has mobilized the country, in the hope that it may show everyone else how serious a player it can be in the world today. The slogan “One World, One Dream” could as well read, “NO to Hatred, Terrorism and War, YES to Peace, Goodwill and Mutual Respect among all the Peoples and Countries of the World.”

  The call for a better society, civility, care and altruism, the reverence for righteous people, justice, kindness and compassion, where responsibility is driven by principles that seek to promote and foster the common good, have a long tradition in China that goes back thousands of years.

  When China called on all people to engage in preparing for the Olympic Games, it did not, could not, exclude children. Schools, even at the primary level, were encouraged to seek partner countries for the Olympic Games. Children were asked to get to know other cultures and other countries and their people’s better. It was their aim to connect with children all over the world, and with the support of their schools and families, find pen pals, establish exchange programs, 2007_centenary_img06and get ready to support the athletes from their chosen country once they start arriving in China next year.

  Children have been given a great responsibility: they are seen as ambassadors of goodwill, right now. China does not see children merely as “grown-ups to be” but as active elements, active role-players in society, today!

   The Olympic Games and Olympic spirit are being promoted in schools through sports activities, and through the promotion of cultural awareness, which fosters a sense of dignity, identity and pride for who one is — wherever he or she may come from — and this promotes Peace.

  How similar this is to what the Montessori educational approach does! Montessori schools educate for Peace. Montessorians seek, in all their doings, to prepare environments conducive to curiosity, a life-long love for learning and appreciation for other people’s differences; understanding, tolerance, cooperation and the development and fostering of peaceful conflict resolution — even at the kindergarten level. Right now, the UN Montessori Peace initiative is under way.

  In “Montessori Model United Nations: The Practice of Peace Education,”
  Judith Cunningham wrote, “The Montessori Model United Nations Program is dedicated to Maria Montessori’s conviction that ‘when children are accustomed, from the earliest childhood onwards, to considering those around them as a source to help explore the world, they are not tempted to adopt a wary or hostile attitude towards others who belong to different races or religions.’ At a later date, children raised according to these principles will be of great help in the construction of a peaceful society and the encouragement of this understanding among nations.”

  And she goes on to mention —something that most people are unaware of — “Dr. Montessori was the author of the first Rights of the Child in 1946 when UNESCO was founded.”2007_centenary_img02

  Montessori practices promote dialogue and foster a love for life, understanding and compassion, nurturing a life-long desire and positive attitude towards learning; it deeply respects children and their needs and natural development processes, at the same time encouraging dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution. For this fact, Montessori organizations, Montessori schools and even single Montessori classrooms can be seen as miniature UN models. Nowadays, children gather daily in these prepared environments, and with the assistance of the community, children and adults alike, experience firsthand what it is like to live in a world rich because of its diversity. Differences are not threatening but welcome because it’s their myriad colors that allows us to paint a rainbow with no exclusion of colors or shades. Children make friends across borders in the classrooms, or prepared environments, again, because both children and adults come from all ends of the earth and bring with them what makes them unique. Even when these friendships last only for a short period of time, they leave memories and impressions that stay longer than each child’s individual lifetime — these memories become a legacy.

  As China welcomes the Olympic Games in 2008, we celebrate cultural and human diversity, tolerance and work towards peace. As the Olympic Games get closer, let’s focus on the fact that competition is not what matters most. What matters most is the fact that this is an opportunity to get one step closer to what humanity longs for: “a world free of hatred, terrorism and war, where ideals of peace, goodwill and mutual respect form the basis of relations among peoples and countries.”

We are on the same quest; we share the same “One World, One Dream.”

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Sources:

“Education and Peace” by Maria Montessori

http://www.amshq.org/, Peace Seed Connections,

http://www.newnations.com/

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/

Series on Montessori education contributed by Mammolina Children’s Home Montessori Kindergarten

“Celebrating the Olympic Games” photos courtesy Mammolina Children’s Home M

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