Growing up in the middle of conflict and the role of ethics education for children and youth

When was the last time you thought about your behavior towards others? When did you last stop to think if you follow the opinion of others just to avoid feeling different?

When you live in a reality of ongoing conflict it becomes easy to go with the flow of hatred. I was born in Israel as a part of the minority group. In Israel, there are a lot of differences between people who belong to the minorities and those who belong to the majority group: political views, the education they receive, and their economic and social situation, including employment opportunities, etc.

The separation between the groups is clear. If you were born as a part of the minority, you might have to work harder in order to receive what you have the right to, in order to be accepted in the society and to get equal opportunities like everyone else.

“When children are born, they are free and each child should be treated in the same way”. Isn’t this written statement very meaningful? It sounds obvious, but do all the democratic nations to which this statement may seem obvious, implement this “obvious statement” in their own countries?

All my life I have worked for coexistence between Arabs and Jews. I was so immersed with this issue that I couldn’t see the real problem in my society; the intolerance towards others, towards everyone, not just between Arabs and Jews; intolerance that leads to the lack of respect and the lack of acceptance of the other.

This is how you feel when you live in a country with an ongoing conflict; at some point you start dividing the society into groups and treating people differently according to those divisions, because this is what you have been taught and learned from the people around you, from the media and sometimes even from the educational institutions.

These kinds of problems are everywhere, not just in Israel. We are so busy trying to make our own group in society instead of concentrating on working together to solve common problems. I don’t mean that there is no need for differences, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same, but I would say that it is not as easy as it seems – to forget the divisions we have been used to since a very young age and create a new perspective. We are responsible of our own behaviors and our behaviors affect the way our children behave.

We should stop for a second and look at how our own behaviors affect the people surrounding us. Think about your behaviors; try to reflect about them, and how they affect others.

Children are born innocent; the way in which we, young people and adults, design the world for them is the way they learn how to behave. Children are not a homogenous group and we need to provide them with equal opportunities for all, without discrimination on any type. How can we design an inclusive, equal and fair environment for all in a reality of ongoing violent conflict? How do we empower children and youth in these situations so they don’t learn to divide the society but instead to appreciate differences and respect one another?

Bissan Salman is a student of Political Science and Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She is currently working as a social involvement coordinator for the Arab sector at a young adult center. Since a young age she was very active at a coexistence center called the “Open House”. She has joined various workshops and events organized by Arigatou International. Last year, she completed her internship at the Israeli fund for UNICEF; during her internship she wrote a position paper for policy change for the Knesset (the unicameral national legislature of Israel).

Archived Comments

Bissan Salman ( 14/12/2013 05:05:14 )

Dear Malu,

Thank you for your comment.
I agree with you that we have a lot of work to do; starting with the youth at schools and parents but the most important thing is to start with our selves, to continue working on our selves, especially in an ongoing conflict countries.
Yes, as a youth I have a very important role to play and I believe that we, the young adults and youth, have the power and the ability to change the world starting with the people who are surrounding us in order to make ripples.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples”- this statement of Mother Teresa inspire me every time I read it and it reminds me my role in my society.

This is my presentation at the GA confrence in Israel:
I hope it will inspire other youth.

Thank you again for your comment.

bissan salman ( 14/12/2013 04:04:29 )

Dear Frank,

Thank you for your comment . It is interesting to hear about your work with the Organization WCRP- Tanzania.
I agree with you that all religions teach how to live together with people of different faith and that we are all equal before the law. Unfortunately, the problem is when the people refuse to see this and prefer to exaggerate certain aspects of religion and change the real intention into a bad way. I also agree with you that children were born to a corrupted environment and that we have a lot of work to do in order to make the world a better place to be, especially in conflict countries.
Yes, we should talk to youth, leaders and religious leaders but also we should try to reach the people who never exposed to issues of equality and try to change the way they look at the children and the youth and make them look at the reality in a different way, not just in the way they were used to.

Thank you again for you comment,

Maria Lucia ( 08/12/2013 10:10:28 )

Dear Bissan, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us. Coming from a country that has been in war for more than 60 years I totally feel identified with what you are saying. Unfortunately violent conflicts teach us to divide people, to put labels, to make others our enemies, to become less accepting and more intolerant and disrespectful.  You asked how we can create an environment that is equal, inclusive and fair in a situation of ongoing violent conflict I think by changing the structures in the educational systems, allowing children of all religions, tribes, cultures, beliefs, socio-economic strata to come together, by creating spaces for dialogue among them, by challenging violent narratives, by sharing stories, by developing projects together.  I agree with Frank that conflicts are rarely caused by religion but rather by greed for power and yes – they can be fuelled by our religious beliefs and ideas, therefore, we should challenge our understanding of conflicts, and understand its root causes.  We should challenge exclusivist views, starting from school, teach children to communicate and solve problems non violently, nurture values that help them reflect about their relations with others and appreciate diversity.  We also need to work with parents

You, as youth, have also a very important role to play.  You are role models for other youth and for children.  Your stories of embracing others, working together for peace and reconciliation, for mutual understanding and respect, can change the world one by one.  Please spread what you are doing to include others, to challenge violence and to bring about peace.  I would like to hear more from others and hear your stories bringing about forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual respect.

Thank you, Bissan, for being a role model, for being a bridge between your people, and for reflecting about your experiences.  Can you also share the presentation you made in Israel?


Frank Mwasalukwa ( 21/11/2013 02:02:52 )

Hello Bissan Salman,

It is nice to hear from your story and the way you wish the world would exist, it is great and give us the YouTh, the the world CitiZen a big challenge in the war against all kinds of discrimination and Stigmatization from any ones ideology (Tribe, Race, Religion, Social status, etc.).

Fortunately, I once worked with a certain Organization called World Conference on Religious and Peace (WCRP – Tanzania) under the project that was supposed to connect people of different religions to work together for the purpose of bringing change in Development.

There was a lesson that I leant from that project, and that is, if every one, ware to learn, the true teachings of his/her Faith/Religion and the rule of law, there will be no miss-understandings at all, since every religion teaches how to live together with people of different Faith from yours, and we are all equal before the law.
Children are born innocent, that’s true, but the environment surrounding them are corrupted already, conflicts, war, and rebellion, but if one look clearly, will see that most of the Conflicts in the world are either Religious, Bad Governance or greedy for power.

So, this means, we have a lot to do, especially, we the Empowered Youth, Go there, talk to fellow Youth, Leaders and Religious leaders and see what we can do to make the world a better place to be,
This is a call to everyone, please take a minute to talk about Ethics and Peace and how one with different ideology can co-exist.

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