"Values Education in the Fight Against Terrorism and International Conflicts, in the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights" - Syndia A. Nazario

"Values Education in the Fight Against Terrorism and International Conflicts, in the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights" - Syndia A. Nazario


Dr. Gloria María Abarca

PhD in International Studies of Peace, Development and Conflict


To speak of peace is to speak of the diversity of peace; There is not one peace, there are many peace. From peace studies we can talk about the diversity of making peace, as well as understanding that diversity is the enrichment, precisely, of all the humanities that we are.

We are going to start this table, precisely by understanding each other from different perspectives to make peace, where the issues of peace originated since the late 1970s as a subject of study; where we no longer have to start anything more from violence or the absence of war, to begin to understand each other in a construction of the subject of study, which is peace.

Understanding that peace is a subject of study allows us to begin to build these spaces and practices. We already have postgraduate, master's and doctoral peace studies since the 80's, early 90's; And we also have the UN resolution as a culture of peace since 2010, which is declared the decade of the culture of peace.

So, this gives us an antecedent to know that talking about peace is not only something utopian, but something real, practical; and of which we must build together and for all.

So we are going to start this table, where we have four speakers who will talk to us about these various forms of peace, precisely from the perspective of a social peace, a political peace, an ecological peace; understanding each other in all these diversities, to be conformed.

"Values Education ​​in the Fight Against Terrorism and International Conflicts, in the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights"

Good afternoon, it is a pleasure for me to address the role of the universities in the promotion of peace.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: "It is not enough to speak of peace, one must believe in it. And it is not enough to believe, you have to work to get it.” A simple phrase that puts in perspective, a phrase that leads us to internalize the importance of having an agenda aimed at intellectual development focused on a social environment where peace and human rights govern.

If we want to find a solution to this issue that has so much impact in the world, we must start this pedagogical agenda very early in the formation of the human being. Today I echo the words of Malala, the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, who expressed during a speech before the UN General Assembly: "A child, a teacher, a book and a pen can change the world."

Education is the solution. In the case of institutions of higher education: a student, a teacher, books and the dialogue of current events that can change the world.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that education should be directed towards the full development of the human personality, making man conscious of his dignity as a person, enabling the individual to effectively participate in society and fostering understanding among all ethnic groups, racial, religious, and among all, nations.

A Declaration that invites educational institutions without leaving behind institutions of higher education, that we take a leading role in the social commitment that is implicit in the formation of the human being, so that together we become mediators of peace, as well as, transmit values.

Starting from this great premise then we could define education as a process of permanent formation, which includes individual, cultural, and social aspects, which are based on the integral conceptualization of the human being, taking into account their dignity, their rights, not forgetting the duties within the society in which they live.

Universities cannot be disconnected from the development of our society, on the contrary, they must be intrinsically linked to it. Beyond the training of professionals, universities have a role to play in promoting education with one of the most important foundations in the transformation of society. That is why I proudly represent an educational system founded by a fighter and defender of equality and human dignity, Mrs. Ana G. Méndez, who was an entrepreneurial educator and visionary on the Island of Puerto Rico.

From an early age she understood that access to education should not only be the privilege of some, but an opportunity that should be available to all; so much so that she endorsed the work of an academic institution based on access to education for the benefit of marginalized citizens. She began her legacy in 1941 with what was known as Puerto Rico Junior College, which instituted the first link or foundational stone for what would later be multiple educational institutions, rooted in the educational work of the country.

This work began with 17 students in her garage, and with the help of a loan of $10,000 made by her husband, Mrs. Ana laid the foundation to evolve and transform the island's educational system. What is now known as the Ana G. Méndez University System (SUAGM) is the most important private non-profit higher education institution on the island.

It has three main institutions: Turabo University, Metropolitan University and East University; with 15 centers around the Island, serving approximately 42,000 students. The University System has five venues outside of Puerto Rico: in Florida, Maryland, Washington and Texas. The Institution also has a public television channel and a virtual campus.

SUAGM bases its vision on seven core vectors, which include: academia, student services, research and the public function, among others. In an effort to serve the Hispanic community in the United States, the System has developed the first bilingual model of higher education; through this model the institution offers over 30 academic programs, serving 3,500 immigrants who wish to continue or finish a higher education and thus become bilingual professionals who in turn can impact and contribute to their community.

Our campuses in the United States have a student diversity of more than 25 countries represented from the Caribbean, Central America, South America to Asia and Africa. Respect for human rights and cultural diversity and the way of thinking is indispensable to create an educational environment that promotes solidarity, empathy and tolerance; in this way we can achieve a common good.

The student and teacher composition, where 99% are immigrant, forces the articulation of strategies that promote an environment that stimulates thought and expression with passion, which does not often exempt pain. The development of knowledge and its application are enriched in the classrooms of the campus with each reported story. Each student brings with them a history of life, a history of struggle and overcoming; in many cases with experiences of implicit wars, with mistreatment and violence, that has forced them to leave their countries leaving  their lives behind for a new future, a future of hope.

The reality of our students and their families and countries forces us as an institution to create a different environment where the acceptance of one another takes on a fundamental role. Our classrooms become participatory forums where the constructivist approach permeates, where not only the student learns, where both the professor and the student have the opportunity to reflect, develop and be creative in their contribution plans to society.

There are many universities, like the one I represent, that are making a real effort to promote values, human rights and get us to live in a society where conflicts are managed without violence. The fight against violence, acts of terrorism, work for human development and social strengthening through values, is constant and must be a constant.

These initiatives against extremism and violent behavior must be based on democracy; so much so that President Barack Obama said before the Executive Board of UNESCO in September of this year, that ideologies are not defeated with weapons, they are defeated with new ideas; he expressed, moreover, that the solution is not less democracy, but more democracy, human rights and rule of law; invited leaders to work together to create diverse, tolerant and inclusive societies that defeat extremism.

As part of this event, the Director General highlighted education as the way to promote human rights and peace, as the strategy to combat violent extremism; her words so significantly show that education remains the ideal vehicle for hearts and minds, considering that young people learn to hate and must be taught peace.

The 21st century has brought with it demands that are essential, since it demands that educational institutions within the global framework be more efficient and effective in their training processes directed at the moral qualities of the human being, thus promoting a culture of peace; it has to transcend to other levels and incorporate the internationalization of values, attitudes and norms in the classroom, so that the students are sensitized and have the opportunity to share life experiences, although not theirs, but to feel what they feel; experiences to interweave ideas, elements, strategies and to strengthen the commitment of a culture of peace and mediation.

As educators we cannot forget that only by raising awareness of the responsibility each of us has in the construction of peace will we be able to build a better world for future generations.

Johan Galtung, founder of peace studies and one of the world's foremost researchers in this field, emphasizes that peace is the result of the ability to handle conflicts with empathy, without violence and with creativity. The university classrooms become creative laboratories with a social purpose, incorporating projects of social coexistence with democracy understanding, including curricular and extracurricular activities in a framework of global crisis that allow to explore the impact of non-violence and thus create empathy; spaces where social and multicultural coexistence are promoted and intertwined.

When the teacher performs his role in this mission, the dynamic changes  have a new meaning; teachers need to expand their focus to a holistic and interdisciplinary view that cannot be limited to fostering critical thinking; it must create avenues to impact society by developing professionals sensitive to the violent reality that the world lives, creating a sense of belonging through dialogues focused on historical and current events, with defined and intentional objectives.

Peace must be more than the mere absence of violent conflict. We live in an individualistic society that requires that as the sculptors carve, the universities should make a vision change to gradually mold a citizen that is concerned about their neighbor.

Educational institutions are transforming agents that embrace all dimensions of the human condition; However, very few have as part of their agenda to achieve the development of transformative actions, combining subjects and activities focused on human rights and a culture of peace in all academic programs offered institutionally.

But a proposal like this requires a great commitment to work with teachers in their training, and support the institution in this new dimension; it is necessary to implement strategies that allow to raise awareness among the media of their responsibilities to educate without violence and peaceful conflict resolution. Each of the universities will take diverse actions, but  it is essential to create an environment where reflection, self-learning and the exchange of experiences and knowledge permeate through the development and implementation of a new thinking.

The inclusion of these issues in academic environments gives legitimacy, making them become part of the public agendas to promote the social responsibility of each citizen in the fight against violence and for peace.

We must remember that the UN specifies in its Declaration of 1948 that education will aim at the full development of human personality and strengthening respect for human rights; fundamental freedoms; that education will foster understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and all ethnic and religious groups for the maintenance of peace; However, this is not always possible if one does not take into account that education begins at home at a very early age, much less when the human being is exposed to messages that may be contradictory.

Access to information is currently limited and it is not a secret that some media are not reliable at the time of publishing a news. Education becomes a human right as well as an essential condition, to make a social change where there are parameters guiding the construction of a culture of peace, reconciliation, coexistence and social commitment.

As educational institutions, universities are responsible for identifying pedagogical opportunities to maximize intellectual reflection, promote the creation of strategies, develop skills that lead to tolerance, solidarity and acceptance, thus spreading the importance of understanding culture, always focusing on its strengths and not their weaknesses or differences.

Within the universalization of higher education it is necessary to contemplate inclusion and social justice in its diversification and academic flexibility. The UN Economic and Social Council, in 1999, specifies specific features of education, regardless of academic level; these characteristics are described as availability, accessibility, adaptability and acceptability.

Higher education must be available and accessible to all human beings who wish to pursue their professional development, but even more so, education must accept the differences between human beings, who are well directed in a structured environment and become an enriching agent that promotes solidarity, justice, equality, cooperation, tolerance for diversity and acceptance.

Education should be more adaptable to the reality of the social environment to which it responds. Education cannot be static, it requires transcending at a standardized level, to a more diverse level, where elements that impact the world and society, which build and are strengthened by change, are taken into consideration.

In turn, according to the Education Report of the XXI Century, which was prepared by the UNESCO International Commission, education is based on four pillars: learning to do, learning to know, learning to be, learning to live together. This requires the professional to understand that the knowledge learned will be useful only when it is implemented and applied. For these pillars to be maintained, it is necessary to implement the mechanism and conditions in institutions to ensure significant achievements that help to change established paradigms. It is imperative to know reality through research and analysis, not forgetting barriers that arise in terms of ideologies that interfere with the progress of the implementation of a culture that promotes peace.

Education is daring, so with an intentional agenda that impacts the curriculum, can generate great changes in society, however, to be successful, there must be the synergy and commitment of all the players involved in the change and its environment, changes in policies oriented to the transformation and allocation of resources necessary for successful implementation.

Let us remember that education is a spearhead for the promotion of a culture of peace and human rights. Education is power. Education is the key to achieving peace, mutual respect, social justice, which seeks to include significant aspects facing contemporary societies.

I conclude by recalling the words of Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan indigenous leader, human rights defender: “Peace is the daughter of coexistence, education, and dialogue. Respect for millennial cultures gives rise to peace in the present.”

Let us continue the struggle and dialogue through education as a means to achieve peace, as Pope Francis said: "To achieve peace requires courage, much more than to make war."

Let us be courageous and face this common struggle by using education as a mediating agent. The solution will not be found in history, but in the future.

Good afternoon, Thank you.