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Learning tolerance and non-violence

REJECTING the use of violence is not an expression of weakness and very often requires great inner strength and self-discipline, said Rajiva Misra, India's ambassador to Slovakia, adding that whenever people want to change their societies, they must first bring about change in themselves. Ambassador Misra spoke with high school students in Rimavská Sobota in early December last year. The ambassador stressed that his country, with one billion-plus citizens, more than 20 official languages and a multitude of religions and cultures which often look physically different from each other, must take the path of tolerance and non-violence, stressing that “if India is not tolerant, then there would be no India”.

Ambassador Misra (second left). (Source: Matej Kovalančik)

REJECTING the use of violence is not an expression of weakness and very often requires great inner strength and self-discipline, said Rajiva Misra, India's ambassador to Slovakia, adding that whenever people want to change their societies, they must first bring about change in themselves. Ambassador Misra spoke with high school students in Rimavská Sobota in early December last year. The ambassador stressed that his country, with one billion-plus citizens, more than 20 official languages and a multitude of religions and cultures which often look physically different from each other, must take the path of tolerance and non-violence, stressing that “if India is not tolerant, then there would be no India”.

Ambassador Misra comes from a country with a rich history of non-violent civil disobedience that brought political and social changes, but he noted that Slovakia also has its own experience with non-violent revolutionary change during the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

This link between the two countries brought the topic of non-violence and multicultural dialogue even closer to the students at Ivan Krasko High School when they met the ambassador as part of the Bringing the World to the Classroom project developed by The Slovak Spectator, several foreign embassies in Slovakia and Sugarbooks, a distributor of textbooks.

Multiculturalism, tolerance and acceptance of people who are different from you are the soil in which dialogue and rejection of violence can be nourished, Misra told the students, adding that he appreciated what he called the students’ “deep awareness of history”.

Students wrote essays before their meeting with the ambassador which explored different kinds of violence, arriving at the conclusion that various kinds of violence are more interrelated than one might think, for example violence in the home leading to misbehaviour by students at school. The ambassador noted that if one counts the victims of so-called micro-violence that occurs within families and smaller communities, the overall number can be quite large and the consequences serious and deserving of attention. The ambassador praised the honesty demonstrated by the students in their essays and during the discussion.

The students pressed the ambassador in various ways on whether dialogue can actually prevent people from acting violently. Student Leila Miri wrote in her essay that dialogue works only if all involved parties are willing to listen and only if people are able to distinguish their real needs from what are only selfish desires. Ivana Jalováriová wrote that even in kindergarten stronger children have a tendency to dominate weaker children and that in early childhood various forms of violence can be encountered. Andrea Barnová’s essay noted that violence is so frequent that it is almost a predictable story on the evening news, while adding that the power of speech can sometimes prevent people from committing violent acts or suicide.

Ambassador Misra underscored that dialogue aimed at searching for truth, speaking with other cultures, or simply understanding each other, needs to be fuelled by an effort by all parties to find solutions and should not only involve bluntly repeating one’s own position, while noting that his discussion with the students had demonstrated their genuine openness to listen and learn.

The Bringing the World to the Classroom project has the goal of promoting greater openness to different cultures while motivating Slovak students to pursue further education. The sponsors believe that holding discussions in the English language at Slovak secondary schools with distinguished leaders from the international community can develop young people’s understanding of issues that are crucial for a tolerant society, one that welcomes diverse cultures and is capable of participating in international discourse.


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