September 8 – 21, 2017 | Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida and Amaltas Hall, India Habitat Centre
By Samuel Poumai
Standing Together to Enable Peace (STEP) Trust, in partnership with UNESCO MGIEP’s YESPeace Network, organised a three-day training for youth on “Global Citizenship Education and Interfaith Peace Building – An exploration of Interfaith Harmony Though faith” from the 8th to the 10th of September, 2017 at the Delhi Metropolitan Education Institute in Noida. In this programme, through the medium of filmmaking, thirty-four youths from different backgrounds were encouraged to relook at the idea of religion through an exploration of what faith means to each of us, and how it functions at each of the three levels – personal, cultural and social. Upon conclusion of the training, the participants made films on the theme of interfaith harmony, which were screened at the inaugural event of STEP’s annual peace festival Jashn-e-Aman to celebrate the International Day of Peace on the 21st of September 2017, at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.
The training sought to enable the young participants to become critically aware citizens as they learn to cut through stereotypes and prejudices. The STEP team engaged the participants in a discussion on faith at the personal, cultural and social levels, and educated them in the principles of interfaith harmony and peace building skills, important tools for them to use in building a just, equitable and free world.
Over the course of the three-day training, the participants were engaged into conversations on inner happiness, identity (what they feel others think about them and who they are) and faith. In addition, the participants were trained in the basics of filmmaking by filmmakers Anuj Chopra and Chaitanya Kumar. The first day of the programme delved on the notion of inner happiness, how it is distinct from the emotion of pleasure, and how all religions talk of a similar search for inner happiness. The participants were then made to explore the theme of identity, through an exploration of the various identities that make up their individual sense of self (through the eyes of others). The second day of the program was dedicated to training the participants in the basics of filmmaking – script writing, cinematography and editing. On the third day, the participants were made to intimately explore their relationship with faith at the personal, social and cultural level through film screenings (‘Dharma Dollies’ and ‘Diya and the Dargah’) and discussions. The programme culminated with the formation of the five groups, as the facilitators guided them in developing their storyboards.
In the next five days, each of the groups created a three-minute film based on their learning to promote interfaith harmony. Three of these, ‘Letter’, ‘Boond’ and ‘Main Kisi Dharm Ka Nahi (I do not belong to any religion)’, were short fictional films that looked at the notion of inter-faith harmony through a humanist lens. The other two films, ‘Vishvaas (Belief)’ and ‘Rely-gion’, were documentaries that explored particular ideas such as people’s relationship with the mythological figure of Raavan in a small village called Bisark in the Indian state of UP, and the notion of secularism as it functions in this country.
These films were screened for the general public on the 21st of September at the inaugural event of Jashn-e-Aman, STEP’s 12-day peace festival. The theme of this year’s festival was Towards Sanmati – Narratives of the In-between and Beyond, where we sought to cultivate a sense of ‘sanmati’ (together mindedness) through an exploration of topics and issues that are often ignored or overlooked. STEP seeks to facilitate conversations that espouse empathy and critical inquiry, and implore people to question divisive structures in society. The inaugural event, held at the India Habitat Centre, began with recitations of beautiful Urdu poetry by the renowned Dr. Saeeda Hameed and Mr. Arun Mohan. The poems recited were soulful renditions in the sweet and nuanced tongue of Urdu that meaningfully conveyed the message of love, empathy and peace between different individuals and communities, irrespective of religious, ethnic or racial affiliations. These served as a wonderful prelude to the screening of the five films on inter-faith harmony that the participants created.
This programme was supported by the UNESCO MGIEP’s YESPeace Network and KRITI foundation. The Delhi Metropolitan Education (DME) Institute in Noida was our institutional partner. The five films will be housed on the YouTube Channel of UNESCO MGIEP where they can be viewed by members of the general public. STEP and UNESCO MGIEP will engage the trained youth to maximise their skills with follow up activities to bring about positive change in their respective communities.
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