Recent headlines about Brexit have kicked up dust on old conflicts in Northern Ireland, yet tensions began rising months ago when four Catholic families were kicked out of their homes. They had lived peacefully in a social housing experiment in Belfast where both Catholics and Protestants were housed side by side. But when a shadowy loyalist (Protestant) gang directly threatened them, there was no guarantee of safety. Ultimately, the victims were moved out, resurfacing the the age-old issue: the expulsion, "ethnic cleansing," and intimidation that forces anyone deemed to represent "the other" out of certain areas, while keeping those areas as the exclusive possession of one "group."
Teachers all over the world are grappling with how to address today's divisive climate with their students. The same is true for Petr Sokol and Roman Anyz, trainers at the Terezin Initiative Institute in the Czech Republic. They have been partnering with Facing History to teach about democracy, the Holocaust, and the treatment of the Roma while facing uncertain political times in their country today. Sokol and Anyz, who is also a middle school teacher, share how they are helping teachers consider how they can encourage young people in the Czech Republic to think critically about what is happening around them. New concerns over populism rising in the country makes this task feel more important than ever.
Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the US would be withdrawing from the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by the end of 2018. Understanding the implications of this is important for students in today’s world, particularly as the nation’s dynamics with international institutions continue to shift. Discussing these events prepare our students for engaged citizenship. Bringing the world to the classroom can also motivate students and help them become effective and satisfied in the long term.
The stories are heartbreaking and chilling. In the first few weeks of 2017, identity-based hatred appears to be pervasive and on the rise. Two immigrants from India were shot in Kansas allegedly by a man who confronted them about their visa status; historical Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in St. Louis and Philadelphia; and, in Rockville, Maryland, a Jewish couple, who put up a Black Lives Matter banner outside their home, received a threatening note with the word “Jew” written in German and the ominous promise of “mayhem.” On January 29th, six people were killed and 19 were injured in a mass-shooting at a mosque in Quebec City. The victims included fathers, an academic, and local businessmen. They were in the midst of evening prayers.
The epitaphs for 2016 are coming out by the hour. It was the worst of years, some are saying, in the midst of uncertain times. Of course, at midnight on the 31st, the challenges we face won’t go away. The only way that 2017 will be better is if we make it so.
South Africans, like many people in the United States right now, and many in Colombia and the United Kingdom, have been thinking deeply about who we are, where we came from, and where we are heading as a country. In 2016, South Africans also woke up, one morning, to a changing shift in the political landscape—a view we had become accustomed to. What seemed unlikely once was now before our eyes. Local government elections saw major cities across the country, including Pretoria, the seat of government, now in the hands of the opposition. Where once race divided our votes, now the need for an accountable, honest, and committed government has begun to unite us.
In this increasingly globalized world, we can learn a lot from each other. That's why in July, Facing History facilitated a weeklong Advanced International Seminar hosted by North Shore Country Day School. Teachers from Northern Ireland, South Africa, England, Mexico, France, and the United States gathered in Winnetka, Illinois to discuss the issues and challenges educators struggle with and to exchange best practices.
Karen Murphy, Facing History's international director, recently shared her experience on the Global Learning blog, hosted by Education Week and the Asia Society. Read about the eight lessons she learned from facilitating the Advanced International Seminar.
April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be featuring stories on Facing Today that reflect upon genocide throughout history. Hearing personal stories of survival can be a powerful learning experience. In this post, we’re shining a light on the inspirational stories of two genocide survivors.
On Easter Sunday, a splinter group of the Taliban killed more than 70 people, including children, in Lahore, Pakistan. The group said they were targeting Christians who had gone to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park to celebrate the holiday with their families. It was mostly Muslims who were killed.
On Tuesday, March 22nd, at least 35 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in Brussels, Belgium. Victims came from across Belgium as well as from the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and China. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on Brussels' airport and a subway station in the center of the city. There have also been attacks in Turkey, Nigeria, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Syria, and Iraq.