Excerpts from High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)'s
The role of
religious education in the pursuit of tolerance and non-discrimination
The complete document
Declaration on Tolerance
International Consultative Conference on School
Education in relation with Freedom of Religion and Belief, Tolerance and
Non-discrimination (Madrid, 23-25 November 2001) ...
The strategy is based upon the observations received by the different counterparts working on education, particularly States, on the role that the school could play world-wide in order to contribute effectively to contrast all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion and conviction, and so that self-representation and representation of the others in the field of religion and conviction help foster the idea
that "the others" are "us". ...
...human rights are based on the
common denominator of human dignity and, as such, cannot be... translated in terms of reservation or exclusion.
1. The meaning of
On 19 November 1974, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO)... defined education as implying "the entire
process of social life by means of which individuals and social groups learn
to develop consciously within, and for the benefit of, the national
and international communities, the whole of their personal capacities,
attitudes, aptitudes and knowledge....
2. The meaning of
human rights education
In accordance with relevant provisions of international human rights
instruments... human rights education has been defined as training,
dissemination and information efforts aimed at the building of a
universal culture of human rights through the imparting of knowledge and
skills and the moulding of attitudes, which are directed towards:
- the strengthening of respect for human
rights and fundamental freedoms;
- the full development of the human
personality and the sense of its dignity;
- the promotion of understanding,
tolerance, gender equality and friendship among all nations,
indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and
3. The meaning of
Religious education should be conceived as
a tool to transmit knowledge
and values pertaining to all religious trends, in an inclusive way, so
that individuals realize their being part of the same community and
learn to create their own identity in harmony with identities different
from their own. As such, religious education radically differs from
catechism or theology... and contributes to the wider framework of education
as defined in international standards.
4. Survey on
education for a preventive strategy
...intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief continue to
manifest themselves all over the world. In order to combat these phenomena,
the Special Rapporteur has been monitoring the situation in the field of
religion and belief....
....prevention can be ensured mainly through the
establishment of a
culture of tolerance, notably through education, which could make a
decisive contribution to the promotion of human rights values and
particularly attitudes and behaviours which reflect tolerance and
...in 1994, the Special Rapporteur conducted a survey.... The 77 State
replies were used as a basis for a number of provisional comments, inter
alia, intolerance as reflected in curricula and textbooks, ignorance of
religions... as well as distorted
description of them, leading to a lack of respect for them....
5. Limits of the survey and remedies: ...
A successful example was represented by the June 1993 South African
initiative for a "Dialogue between the cultures", which led to the formation
- in Hamburg in 1994 - and consolidation - in Utrecht in 1996 - of an International Network for Interreligious and Inter-cultural Education....
...in Great Britain a number of networks and
centres of teacher education specialised on the needs for interreligious or
multi-religious education.... The
Religious and Education Research Unit at the University of Warwick, England,
also contributes to inter-cultural understanding. In addition, the
University of Warwick offers a Part-time Master of Arts in Religious
Education by distance learning. The University of Erlangen-Nurnberg,
Germany, has a specialist centre on inter-religious pedagogy....
Other relevant experiences range from some conclusions and recommendations
emerging from a Sub-Regional Training Workshop on Human Rights Education in
Northeast Asia... focusing on educational alternatives, including
inter-religious understanding and cooperation, responding to needs for
personal and communal transformation....
Similarly, international organizations have often sponsored specialized programmes on multi-religious education, as was the case of a
of Churches' initiative in the late 1960s, aiming at highlighting the
need for religious dialogue and education to prevent intolerance and promote
peace and justice in pluralist communities. Similar initiatives followed in
the 1980s... bringing together representatives of Orthodox, Protestant,
Catholic, Islamic and Jewish communities for a round-table on
multicultural education, during the conflict in Yugoslavia. On that
occasion, a recommendation for school teachers and for teachers of religion
was put forward urging that both public and religious education should emphasize commitment for human rights and for a culture of tolerance.
A number of UNESCO initiatives are also worth
mentioning.... A further contribution is emerging from the
Department of Inter-cultural Dialogue and Pluralism for a Culture of Peace....
Other relevant references include the "Roads of Faith" Project, Rabat, 19-23
June 1995, proposing a revision of textbooks to eliminate clichés and irreverent allusions to other religions....
...the main question is to ensure that
teaching of religion and conviction is undertaken in an open and enquiring
way, permitting question, response and free choice.... In other words,
education in the field of religion and conviction can contribute to the
elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on
religion or belief provided that both its contents and the spirit in
which they are transmitted put emphasis on comparative experiences,
encouraging the dialogue...