World Interfaith Harmony Week: Mona from Lebanon on education for sustainable development

World Interfaith Harmony Week takes place over the first week of February to provide a platform for interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill to show the world what a powerful movement they are. This week allows for these groups to become aware of each other and to strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each other’s efforts. The initiative is based on the commandments Love of God and Love of the Neighbour and this has been extended to include “Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour” to apply to anyone – regardless of religion. To mark this occasion, the Global Faiths Coalition for Education, in collaboration with Beydaar and Echo Change, will publish a series called Young Perspectives: Articles on Faith & Global Education – written by young advocates for education of different faiths.

The first in this series is by Mona Zoghbi, a 29-year-old Christian from Lebanon. 

I care about education. 

Education equals opportunity. Education is key to enhancing the quality of life, as it provides the necessary world view, knowledge, skills and values that can help us achieve prosperity, well-being and harmony in our lives.

Education for sustainable development (ESD) in particular empowers people to critically reflect on their values, beliefs and lifestyles, to envision a better future and work collaboratively with each other towards achieving security, sustainability and peace. As youth delegates to the UNESCO World Conference on ESD (November, 2014) joined voices on advocating for education, we particularly called for greater access to, and integration of, education for sustainable development in school and university curricula.

Education as a human right has been recognised by religions and faiths worldwide, including Christianity, which emphasises the unique value and contribution of each human life. Christian values of love, forgiveness, respect and aid for one another can be best personified by providing spaces for shared learning about the world’s diverse entities and the inter-connections across the ecosystem – and for profound understanding of our role as individuals and communities.

Mona in Zambia for a sustainable development conference

Christianity also strongly advocates for the rights of girls and women to quality education that equips them with the knowledge and resources to play a prominent role in societal advancement. Furthermore, the importance of compassion in Christian faith is a key motivation for advocating every child’s right to an education and to our collective responsibility to ensure that every child everywhere has the opportunity to learn and thrive.

A lingering challenge to education is “education for all”. Millions of children around the world, especially in developing countries, do not have access to quality education due to poverty, discrimination, lack of infrastructure, facilities and human and technical resources.

I still remember seeing children in rural Africa walk for miles and back each day to get to school, and wondering whether they will continue to have the enthusiasm and energy to walk towards their goal or they might lose their path or dream along the way.

These children are making an active choice to get an education despite difficult circumstances, yet many others do not even have the chance to make that choice. We have a duty towards every child in this world, to ensure that s/he is able to acquire the values, understandings and abilities to enhance their quality of life. We cannot achieve this without universal access to education.

Mona says this picture “shows the beauty of outdoor education”

With the rising emphasis on partnerships across diverse stakeholders, we need to generate greater spaces for interfaith work and collaboration for education. Different religious and faith organisations working together to promote education can result in a more wide-reaching, equitable, well-rounded and compassionate learning environment.

Collaborations should be particularly encouraged across different faith-based organisations advocating for education in remote and impoverished areas where uneducated communities dependent on a vulnerable natural resource base can enhance their knowledge and skills for sustainably securing their livelihoods over the long term.

Furthermore, collaboration towards education across different religions and cultures, such as through interfaith educational initiatives and campaigns, inter-religious dialogue and online interfaith platforms, can promote mutual understanding and foster greater opportunities for children and youth from diverse religions, faiths, cultures and communities to listen to and learn from each other and support each other on various civic and environmental projects. Religions and faiths of the world need to demonstrate their teaching through actions rather than merely through words.

Mona holds a PhD in Sustainability. Mona’s doctoral study explored higher education youth engagement with climate change and sustainability and implications for their health and well-being. She undertook her PhD fieldwork in the Netherlands and South Africa. Mona has also undertaken research and management on various inter-disciplinary environmental projects and is currently consulting with UNESCO on developing climate change education programmes with schools and universities across Lebanon and the Arab region.

Read more blogs about World Interfaith Harmony Week on our Global Faiths Coalition page.