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Oakgrove College students marked the official launch of a year of activities for peace on Friday September 19th. The move comes as students throughout the school join worldwide celebrations of the United Nations Day of Peace.
This is the first time that the day has been marked within the school. The Principal Marie Cowan said 'This is not a one-off event, but part of a series of activities which will hopefully remind students and our community of what peace means.'
This is the UN's Decade for a Culture of Peace and non-violence for the children of the world. The college believes that events to celebrate peace are important in an integrated school as it echoes the ethos of respect, tolerance and understanding central to Integrated Education. 'It is fitting that we mark the day in this school, founded by those who hoped for peace' said John Harkin. 'In the midst of our conflict, they believed in bringing people together rather than driving them apart. Whatever else we teach our children, we should teach them that peace is possible but doesn't just happen. It takes hard work, but is something we can all achieve.'
Students will be reminded of Oakgrove's founders' aim to bring people together in a divided city. They wanted to educate children side by side so that they would grow up to create a more peaceful society than their parents and grandparents had known. They will also learn about other ways they can become involved in peace-building initiatives
Sixth form student Alison Cathcart launched the school's entries for the Spirit of Enniskillen bursary by telling others about her cross community work in Northern Ireland and about her sponsored visit to Croatia and Bosnia in the summer. That scheme, launched in the aftermath of the Remembrance Day bombing in 1987, seeks to create understanding and friendships across apparent barriers.
Later in the year, students will learn about the need for peaceful resolution to conflict in 'Lost Lives' lessons; these will focus on the human cost of war in Northern Ireland and across the globe. There will be input from past Spirit of Enniskillen leaders and other groups.
A link has been made with a school in Guildford to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the bombing in that city and the grief which followed from those events. Through the link, students in the two cities will get to know each other and learn lessons of their shared history of violence and injustice. Contact has also been made with the Educational Institute in Bethlehem with works on non-violence with young Muslims and Christians. Everyone at Oakgrove will have the chance to email students in that war-torn region to learn about the issues.
In a world dominated by war and news of war, the day provided students with an opportunity to think of those who have tried alternatives to violence. Students will learn that not every victim wants revenge. Examples will be studied of how peace works.
Students are also invited to contribute a 'penny for peace, the proceeds of which go to support the peace education work of the Peace Pledge Union, The United Nations Association and Corrymela. The 'penny for peace' works on a simple idea of encouraging students to see that vast sums are spent each day on war, but tiny sums on peace education can make a massive difference, not just here, but across the world. They will see how small peace building initiatives which cost very little have helped to resolve disputes which well-funded armies could not.
'We believe that it is very valuable for our students to be engaged in an event that promotes global peace and ceasefire and leads to discussion and debate on conflict and peace and reconciliation', said Marie Cowan. 'Integrated Education holds at its heart an objective to build a peaceful and tolerant society for future generations.'