Last week our fourth-grade learners and teachers visited both an Islamic mosque and a Jewish synagogue here in Quito. This is part of the unit they have been doing in the PYP focused on understanding belief systems and traditions around the world. The trips were a huge success. Not only did the students gain an insight into these belief traditions, but they were wonderful ambassadors for our school. The rabbi at the synagogue commented that of all the students he's ever presented to, each year Academia Cotopaxi's students are always the most respectful, active listeners and ask deep, meaningful questions. To all the parents of fourth graders, please congratulate and encourage your sons and daughters to continue being inquisitive and open to learning.
To be honest, the Elementary administration, fourth grade teachers and I pondered the rationale of such a trip considering recent developments in Iraq and Iran. We reached out to the security authorities at the US Embassy. The Embassy assured us that there was no reason for undue alarm or caution here in Ecuador. There was also agreement with a philosophical argument for encouraging our students to understand other perspectives. We live in an ever more interconnected world. Many of us grew up in a world where everyone around us were very similar to ourselves, the same culture, the same beliefs. But our children will most likely interact with people who come from very different belief systems and traditions than they. In a world with so many challenges, it is vital that we include others, whoever they are, in finding solutions. We need to build bridges of understanding, not walls and barriers to dialogue. And thus, we realized that our way of combating conflict as a school, is to model and give opportunities for insight, understanding and realization that for the most part we have the same values, love, family, regard for creation and the natural world, the need to feel appreciated for who we are.
Developing and promoting principles of tolerance is important in our globalized world. In order to enhance social relations and prevent conflicts, it is necessary to establish a ground for mutual understanding, negotiation and tolerance on the border of religions, languages and ethnicity. Dialogue cannot be conducted if there is no respect for human rights, rule of law, democratic principles and spiritual values. Not only knowledge and respect regarding secular ideology but also religious ideology is an essential goal of life in our culturally diversified world.
I recall teaching World Religions to high school students in Mexico, a setting very similar to Quito. Initially some students felt uncomfortable with the idea of exploring other faiths. To address this, we examined the example of Pope John Paul II. There was no doubt of the strength of his conviction in his beliefs, nor the openness to dialogue with people of other faiths, inviting religious leaders from around the world to the Vatican and honoring other faiths by visiting their places of worship. He reflected a universal reality and imperative when he said, “By dialogue, we let God be present in our midst, for as we open ourselves to one another, we open ourselves to God.” No matter what our views with respect to religion, when we open ourselves to including, respecting and honoring others, we become better people. That is a fundamental principle behind inclusion at Academia Cotopaxi.
Please also remember that one of our big events of the year, the PTSA Bingo is taking place this Friday, January 24 from 4:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. in the Athletic Center.
Have a wonderful week.