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Education as Tool for Promoting Peace in Middle East Discussed at Conference in Sofia

Education as a tool for promoting peace and fighting radicalisation in the Middle East was discussed on Monday at a conference at the House of Europe in Sofia. The forum was organised by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria and the European People’s Party (EPP).
Education, how we ensure the memory of the past based on history, is at the core of how we will live in the future, said EPP MEP Andrey Kovatchev.
“Our efforts should be focused on education, on the financing of all activities, and the European Union finances many of them,” he said. “In recent years, we have raised the issue of Palestinian history textbooks many times, that there should be an appointed observer, not only of the books, but also of the teacher, how he teaches young people. Because these young people will live together with their neighbours and must live in peace,” Kovatchev said. “If they continue to live in hatred, in violence, then it will be very difficult to find a lasting peaceful solution to this conflict,” he added.
Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria Yosef Sfari also participated in the conference. He commented on the developments between Israel, Palestine and Hamas. “This level of violence cannot be reached without years of training, of radicalisation,” he said.
The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) looks at national school curricula line by line, page by page, to understand the entire curriculum with national stakes, said Marcus Sheff, the institute’s chief executive officer. According to him, the institute is working with many governments in the Middle East and North Africa to stimulate public debate about curricula. “Textbooks are evolving. They are being rewritten. Understanding that evolution gives a greater insight into what a country is trying to achieve with its educational institutions,” he said. Sheff pointed out that when looking at textbooks, one looks for the standards of peace and tolerance developed by UNESCO and the United Nations as respect for the other, for whole cultures, peoples, ethnicities. “This is an idea that is closer to love, if you like, to affection. Peacemaking is a way of resolving conflict,” he said. “It can be quite a difficult task. Everywhere – in Europe, in the United States, in the Middle East. But it can be done and it must be done,” Sheff stressed.
“We need peace everywhere – in the Balkans, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in the Americas and in Latin America,” said Solomon Passy, president of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. In his words, the “bad guys” have the ability to unite, while the “good guys” do not have this instinct and need strength to unite. Where does the war begin, Passy asked, pointing out that “war begins with hate, and hate begins in school, in the first seven years at home, from the mother’s womb, and in fact this hate continues to be learned throughout life.”
An exhibition by Israeli photojournalist Ziv Koren, known for capturing the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, was also presented during the forum.