Hong Kong has experienced serious social unrests and public disorders marked by widespread serious criminal acts like property damage, assaults on persons, protests, escalating violence, vandalisms, arson across the territory. As mentioned by the Honorable Mr. Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor, the Chief Judge of the High Court of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and President of the Court of Appeal of HKSAR, he describes such social unrest as “a dire situation that has not been seen in the last 50 years” in his judgment while seating a case of judicial review about legality of Emergency Ordinance. More researches and observations pointed out that mass radicalization has occurred during the unprecedented anti-government resistance movement because of the influences of high magnitude of fears and strains. Radicalized angry crowds of both sides praised and romanticised violent acts against opposition and fighting for senseless nihilism and bloody barbarism in the name of social justice; more importantly, we can see the spawn of organized far-right radical extreme groups, a clear warning sign of domestic terrorism.
What is Peace Education?
According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, it defined it “as the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behaviour changes that will enable children, youths and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intra-personal, interpersonal, inter-group, national or international level.”
In 2013, the International Day of Peace, marked on 21 September each year, offers an opportunity for the world to pause, reflect and consider how best to break the vicious cycle of violence that conflict creates. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General, set the theme of that year as “Education for Peace”. Peace education is a mean to bring a culture of peace. As he stated in his Secretary-General's 100-day Countdown Message – “Education has to cultivate mutual respect for others and the world in which we live, and help people forge more just, inclusive and peaceful societies”.
How it works?
Peace education is a board umbrella that covers a spectrum of focal themes. They are mainly conflict resolution trainings, justice education, critical peace education, morals, values and ethics education and more. It encourages activities and trainings in social groups and institutions that promote knowledge, skills and attitudes that will help people either to prevent the occurrence of conflict, resolve conflicts and a nonviolent manner, or create social conditions conducive to peace. Peace educators meet the objectives by using their educational skills to teach others how to create peaceful conditions and environments.
Why we need it?
Entering the period of 2010s, the problem of violent radicalization and terrorism had become one of the top issues for the global community and security. The communication technological advancement including the multi-functional devices, social media and high-speed spider-net digital network which have revolutionized our ways of livings and habits. People nowadays rely heavily on online platform to receive news and information, but it brings no promise to news’ quality and credibility. Social media provides a free and open channel to everyone, allowing people to share and access any type of information and news instantly without any physical boundary, but it also become a free pathway for people to share fraudulent information and hate speech cum political propaganda that caused unnecessary strong negative sentiments to the public. In fact, more security studies suggest that online platforms do play a major part of radicalizing citizens, which becomes one of the major obstacles against peace development.
Hong Kong, as one of the freest places in the world, could easily become the victim of fake news bombardments and ideological-driven political propaganda. When our current value and legal constraints systems are failing to protect citizens away from these threats, education indeed does play a strategic role. Yet, according to the result of International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2016 (conducted by The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement), the scoring criteria of “developing student’s skills and competencies in conflict resolution” and “supporting the development of effective strategies for the fight against racism and xenophobia” were the top two lowest in Hong Kong, meaning there are two obvious loopholes in our civic education.
From what we have seen in the past year, the society was in an invulnerable position against those threats and has experienced a serious progress of violent political radicalization. Although education cannot prevent an individual from committing a violent act in the name of violent extremism, the good quality of education provision could play a critical role in creating a positive political and social environment that make difficult for extreme radicalization to spawn and proliferate.
Prior studies suggest that peace education could be used as a de-radicalization program. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published two important documents, named “Preventing violent extremism through education”: a guide for policy-makers and “A Teacher’s Guide on the Prevention of Violent Extremism”. These two marks the milestone of using peace education to prevent radicalization and terrorism. It assists countries to deliver education programmes that build young people’s resilience to violent extremist messaging and foster a positive sense of identity and belonging with positive values and morals concepts. Countries like Indonesia, the United Kingdom, France etc. who are suffering from threats of violent extremism and domestic terrorism all had partly adopted its guidelines and principles to place it into their de-radicalization program; hence, Hong Kong government could and shall follow them.
After a year of social unrest, radicalization is been at school and community of every type in the region. Therefore, it is vital for civic communities and government to joint-hand together to develop a comprehensive and effective peace education program, covering from private to public sectors and school-community level to governmental level. It helps us to build the defences against violent extremism and to prevent any future destructive internal conflicts by creating a peaceful, non-violent and rational atmosphere through strengthening citizens’ skills and commitment to non-violence and peace.