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Workshop on Ethics Education held in Panama

After training adults on how to use the Toolkit for Ethics Education in Ecuador, Jordan, India, El Salvador and Colombia, it was now the turn for Panama to introduce the Toolkit to adults working with children in religious and non-religious settings. The workshop took place from 21 to 23 January in Capira, Panama, and brought together 38 young people and adults.

A workshop to introduce the Toolkit for ethics education through interfaith learning was held in Capira, Panama from 21 to 23 January 2008. 38 participants from Bahá’í faith, Christian denominations, Hare Krishna Movement and the Jewish community in Panama were present. Representatives from UNICEF Panama, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs participated in the workshop as well. Most of the participants came from Panama and three were from Costa Rica.

The first day of the workshop adults were introduced to the GNRC and to the Toolkit developed by the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children. Mrs. Mercedes Román, Coordinator of the GNRC for Latin America and the Caribbean presented the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a tool to promote children’s participation and as the foundation of the Toolkit to enhance children’s ability to develop their full potential. 

Mr. Francisco Beens, specialist in Ethics and member of the Panama Council of Ethics discussed with the participants the relation between ethics and spirituality. Mr. Beens clarified the differences between morality and ethics and invited the participants to continue working on ethics education in order to nurture spirituality in children.  Mrs. Maria Lucia Uribe, from the Arigatou International explained the process of developing the Toolkit and the methodologies and evaluation techniques that it encompasses.  

In the evening of the first day a campfire was organized to welcome the young participants.  They joined the adults group to experience how the Toolkit can be used to deal with youth violence. Songs, guitars, cymbals, laughs, prayers, poems and chanting, mixed together to create an atmosphere of interconnection and mutual respect. The representative of Hare Krishna explained the meaning of the words Hare Krishna and led a chanting to meditate. The two youth Jewish participants sung a song in Hebrew for peace in the world. The Bahá’í representatives sung a prayer for God and the Christians from different denominations joined their voices for love and understanding.

During the next one and a half days, interactive and participative activities of the modules of the Toolkit: Understanding Self and Others and Transforming the World, were carried out. Adults and young participants alike discussed ethical issues, moral dilemmas and discovered the need for empathy and respectful attitudes. 

Mrs. Amada Benavides, from the facilitators’ team, led a session to map out the kind of violence that young people experience, perpetrate and they are victims of in their own environments. Participants looked at causes, consequences and potentialities they have to transform those situations. Mr. Gilberto Toro, from the Ministry of Social Affairs presented information on the kind of violence youth are involved in Panama and their main causes. Dysfunctional families, violent parents, negative role models were highlighted as some of the main causes for youth violence. Mr. Toro said that the Ministry of Social Affairs has detected during the last years 88 organized gangs in Panama and urged participants to continue forging prevention measures and programmes to avoid the escalation of youth violence.

Through role plays participants analyzed non-violent alternatives to respond to violent situations and decrease the level of violence that affect them in daily life. Adults called for the development of ethics education programs for families and to include parents in the discussions about ethics with children.

A cultural evening was organized where participants presented the customs of Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, the Philippines and Uruguay. Young participants sung and danced typical dances from Panama.

During the last day of the workshop an introspective activity was carried out to allow participants to meditate and reflect about their lives, their relationships with others and their attitudes. Participants shared their reflections and concluded on the importance of silence and of finding peace within in order to transform their own societies.

Special thanks to Sister Esperanza Principio from the Maryknoll Sisters Mission Movement, for organizing the workshop and for leading the way to the creation of the GNRC in Panama.

The workshop was the first GNRC activity undertaken in Panama and helped creating the seeds for the development of future ethics education programs.