ASIA/HOLY LAND - A theatre, a swimming pool, a football field to educate about peace

Saturday, 20 April 2024 middle east   jerusalem   franciscan   school   youth   peace   area crisis  

by Father Ibrahim Faltas ofm *

Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - The Franciscans opened their first school in the Middle East in 1598, in Bethlehem, in the Holy Land.
Since then, many more schools have opened, providing educational and other opportunities for growth for the children and youth of the Holy Land.
For many years I have been Director of the Schools of the Custody of the Holy Land.
In Jerusalem, the West Bank and in all of our eighteen schools, we have always promoted academic and personal education, we have supported reception and inclusion and conveyed values such as solidarity and fraternity.

Young people and children, even though they come from different realities and backgrounds, all have the power of a pure heart and behave peacefully by nature. I learned this by listening to their fears and concerns and observing their desire and longing for peace.

In the morning, before class, Christian and Muslim students pray together the prayer of Saint Francis: "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace!". It is an important and beautiful moment: a sign of unity and brotherhood.

When I see them playing and running around in the schoolyard, I am convinced that peace is action, movement and life, not just the absence of war.

In addition to educational training, the school must also provide tools for personal development.
In the Holy Land, more attention must be paid to the educational path and all components of the school must be more involved. To the subjects and disciplines provided for in a normal school organization, peace education must be added, which does not have a fixed weekly schedule but is an essential part of every moment experienced in and outside of school.
There is no textbook for such peace education, but behavior is the tool that must be continuously practiced by everyone - teachers, parents, students - and is aimed at everyone, especially in areas affected and threatened by war.
Schooling around the world should avoid competition and favor sharing and mutual support. This is particularly essential where there is war.
Sport, theater and music are activities that specifically contribute to education and a culture of peace.
A few days ago we inaugurated a theater in the “Holy Land School” in Jerusalem, last year a swimming pool also in Jerusalem and a few years ago an indoor football pitch in Bethlehem. These are the conditions for our boys and girls to grow up and develop into men and women of peace in the future.
In this way, they learn the respect and solidarity necessary to be part of a whole that pursues a common goal: overcoming selfishness and oppression.
Thanks to the generosity of a priest who died prematurely, Father Giuseppe Ballia, we were able to complete the theater. The children and young people performed in the presence of the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Father Massimo Fusarelli, the Apostolic Nuncio and the Father Custos, Ambassadors, Consuls, Directors of other schools and many Friars.
The young people on stage were excited but very well prepared with traditional songs and dances. Their show was titled "We are the hope!" and I am sure that their commitment on stage will pay off in their lives.
Sport, theatre, music help ensure that children and young people in the Holy Land, which is so badly affected by war, grow up in a peaceful environment, with mutual respect and peaceful behavior.
(Agenzia Fides, 20/4/2024)

*Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land