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March 1997 - Issue No. #26 (p.17)
The Seville Statement on Violence was drafted by an international committee in 1986. Its purpose is to dispel the widespread belief that human beings are inevitably disposed to war as a result of innate, biologically determined aggressive traits. UNESCO adopted the Statement in 1989 and the findings have been published in journals around the world. Although some view the statement as purely scientific, it also has an important impact on education.
The statement clearly indicates that peace is possible and that wars and violence can be ended. It describes five propositions that underline the incorrectness of commonly held stereotypes that have for centuries doomed the human population to war and aggression.
The Seville Statement emphasizes that we are not condemned to violence by our biology. It is possible to end war and the suffering it causes. We cannot do it alone; we can only change these stereotypes by working together. Most important, we must believe that we can change. "Just as wars begin in the minds of men, peace also begins in our minds." It is up to each of us to do our part.
The Seville Statement provides language teachers with the opportunity to address violence and counter the idea that war is inevitable. It provides us with tools to create value discussions on which peace can be constructed. Most young people believe in the ideals of respect and understanding for all peoples and cultures. Unfortunately, these ideals are not encouraged and supported by the institutions that most directly affect young people's lives: the schools and the mass media. Young people hunger for a vision of the future that is optimistic and not darkened by war. We can begin to give them this vision. King, Gandhi, Freud, Mead and Einstein are all role models young people should be encouraged to follow. Simply having their photos in a classroom and reading their writings in class gives students insights and hope. The Seville Statement can help people develop a global vision and solidarity with people throughout the world. It shows how enemy images are artificial constructions used to manipulate emotions and not a human trait.
For more information on the Seville Statement, contact a UNESCO office near you or write to David Adams, Director, Culture of Peace Action Program, UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75015 Paris, France.
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