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Educating global citizens

Hardly a day passes without news of violent extremism, global terrorism, kidnappings, abductions, murders, and even beheadings perpetrated by such groups as the Islamic State and, in the case of my country, the Abu Sayyaf. Early in September, a bomb ripped through a night market in Davao City, ironically the fourth safest city in the world, and killed at least 14 and injured 70 Filipinos. I could not help but be dismayed that my own people would destroy the lives of their fellows despite a shared memory of the past. Like a hound gone wild, the mere thought of the future frightens me. In the advent of globalization, I ask myself: Why do these events happen?

With globalization the world becomes smaller, territorial boundaries become ambiguous, and divisions among people become less significant. Globalization has created a complex web of interconnectedness, where cultures are seamlessly integrated with others, thereby creating new and even more complex social and cultural patterns. Indeed, we are in an era where what we do in society—every decision, every policy, every action—affects not only our own country but other countries as well. We carry the task of doing well for the benefit of our country and the task of doing well and making sure that it does well for the sake of humanity.

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I believe that the one global issue world leaders should pay more attention to is education—not only education that is accessible to all but also quality education that values cultural plurality and diversity.

We are in an era where ethnicities and cultures breed hybrid identities. Our sense of belonging is not merely based on our passports and citizenships. People may be bound to disagree about the ultimate ends of life, but reckoning to support personal freedom and democracy is the greater moral authority. It is the acceptance of multiple identities and hybridity that makes all the difference. It is in this perspective that a culture can learn a thing or two from other cultures, thereby creating wider cultural opportunities and choices. We live in and share one world, separated only by deep seas and high mountains. Therefore, we must all craft an identity rooted in universal values.

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The challenge to education across the globe is to create societies that are able to thrive among different cultures. We need education that values diversity in cultures despite differences in values, principles, and religious beliefs. It is the realization that beauty exists in peoples’ harmonious divergence. That solidarity can be achieved amid differences. We need education that teaches the youth in nations with multiple ethnicities and traditions that they can coexist in humanity. Nations must not be oblivious to this web of interconnectedness among people; existing in harmony is not a utopian dream. Existing in harmony is within the reach of every citizen of the globe.

In the words of sociologist Randy David, it must be an education that recognizes, tolerates, respects, and protects affinities and identities that may be based on race and ethnicity, gender and class. The task of nation-building, he adds, must be a narrative of a country that is conscious of its solidarity, thus creating a nation that is less demanding and more tolerant.

Access to education is a right of every citizen of the world, and how we choose to educate the youth is very crucial in shaping the next generation. How we choose to tell our stories, what values we inculcate in children, what power we imbue in them, what future we want to create in the next years: These are issues that need to be thoroughly addressed.

Education is not merely a formula for success but a tool for empowerment and understanding. Knowledge empowers us and wisdom dictates our actions. It is through knowledge and wisdom that we understand how and why things are the way they are. Education will dictate how young minds will think and act in the future. It is the youth who carry the torch of responsibility, but it is also through quality and right education that they will understand the great task of nation-building.

This task is not given only to the state or to educational institutions. It is also given to that most basic social institution—the family. We need not always search for answers and solutions in the government. The power is not entirely in the hands of our leaders; it lies also in the hearts and minds of young people, the next generation of leaders, innovators, and change-makers of society. Extremist groups use all means to spread their ideologies, recruiting more support from different parts of the globe, thereby creating an atmosphere of intolerance and instability. We can see Syria, Iraq, Iran and many other countries wracked by war, their citizens dying, seemingly hopeless. This is not a challenge to be taken up by governments alone. It is a challenge posed to every global citizen.

The more we choose to hate one another, to reject each other’s beliefs and values, to engage in racial and ethnic discrimination, foolishly believing that one is superior to others, the more the world becomes a dangerous place. Children are the collateral damage of violent conflict. They need no more words, only a genuine commitment from every global citizen that we will not let them remain trapped in the quagmire of intolerance and oppression. The times we choose to ignore the world around us are the times when we take away the lives, joys and dreams of children.

The future may be overwhelming to some, but it is essential to realize that we, as citizens of the world, have the power to create the future. We have the power to change society. We must not view the future as an end or a destiny in itself, but as a continuing work of creation, a work in progress.

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Says Hugh Evans, the founder of GlobalCitizen.org: “Global citizens are people who self-identify first and foremost not as members of a state, nation, or tribe, but as members of the human race.” It is my utmost aspiration, my long-term dream, and my hope for the world, that everyone will take part in spreading peace, hope, and love among people. I cannot do the task alone; together, we can.

The small steps that we make, when a mass, can become a huge step for humankind, like a rock dropped in a sea of despair, creating a million ripples—hopes for humanity multiplied many times.

Lily Amelia Joy Lofranco, 18, says she is shifting courses from industrial engineering to journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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TAGS: Davao bombing, education, Globalization, terrorism
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