Fr. Peter Gonsalves conducted a profoundly enlightening and thought-provoking session on ‘Peace Education’ for the educators from Don Bosco Lonavla and Don Bosco Pune on Saturday, 12 August 2023 from 9 am to 4 pm at Don Bosco Lonavla with 40 teachers actively participating.
The session aimed to illuminate participants about the need for peace within a society plagued by polarization, divisive tendencies and discrimination. Simultaneously, it familiarized teachers with Fr Gonsalves’ “Exercises in Peace Education,” empowering them to cultivate a culture of peace.
The day began with a prayer, after which, the rector of Don Bosco Lonavla, welcomed Fr. Gonsalves and the participants, followed by Fr Ajit Munis, the Principal of Don Bosco Pune, introducing Fr. Gonsalves. In the morning sessions, Fr. Gonsalves explored various forms of peace – Personal, Socio-Political and Ecological. He alluded to the religious concepts of peace and delved into Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, stressing how unmet basic needs can lead to conflict and violence.
In the subsequent session, Fr Gonsalves listed the diverse peace education initiatives and stressed experiential learning as the key method for instilling values, attitudes, perceptions, skills and behavioural changes. An animated discussion on ‘Bullying’ occurred, followed by an introduction to the concept of peace according to Johan Galtung, who established the first academic department of Peace Research in 1959. Reflecting on the ‘bullying’ topic, Deepti Petrus Panpatil, a teacher from Don Bosco Pune, said, “The topic ‘bullying’ is so pervasive in schools. Fr Gonsalves provided insights into various forms of bullying: physical bullying, verbal bullying, social bullying and cyber bullying and its impact, emphasizing that education to peace holds an answer to many unresolved questions.”
Post-lunch, a video depicting third-grade teacher Jane Elliott’s lesson on discrimination was screened, prompting a spirited discussion on prevailing social discrimination and its detrimental consequences. The day concluded with teachers from both institutes meeting separately to discuss the implementation of strategies proposed by Fr Gonsalves and effective use of the ‘Exercises for Peace Education” manual. Gratitude was expressed to Fr Gonsalves for his practical approach and insightful sessions by teacher Qaafiya Syed. Vrushali Jadhav, the coordinator of Don Bosco Lonavla and a participant, expressed, “The Peace session was informative. The topics covered in the manual are suitable for the age group, and Fr Gonsalves dedicated a lot of effort to explaining the book’s content its practical application.” The day ended with the participants invoking the blessings of almighty God on India and its citizens as they sang – ‘Bless our India’ a song composed by Fr Gonsalves.
The global violence, including in India, resulting in tragic loss of lives, evokes deep sorrow. Education is crucial in shaping young minds that embody the future of our society. Our provincial’s initiative to have Fr Gonsalves conduct these sessions for the teachers of our province is essential and timely. The insights he provided will inspire teachers to sow seeds of harmony within the hearts and minds of our students.