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Swiss schools hold competition to promote religious tolerance

Schools in Switzerland have been holding a competition to promote more understanding among Christians, Jews and Moslems. The most innovative projects were presented with awards by a panel of judges (pictured) at a special ceremony in Zurich.

This content was published on January 25, 2000 - 22:39

Schools in Switzerland have been holding a competition to promote more understanding among Christians, Jews and Moslems. Those who came up with the most innovative ways of promoting religious tolerance were presented with awards at a special ceremony in Zurich.

Intolerance towards others' religious beliefs is not hard to find. Moslems and Christians routinely kill each other in Indonesia's Moluccas islands; Jews and Arabs have been at loggerheads in the Middle East since Israel became a state, and Catholics and Protestants are still struggling to forge a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, after decades of conflict.

With humanity's long history of religious violence in mind, an organisation called "Weltethos" recently launched a competition among Swiss schools to encourage pupils to find ways of overcoming religious intolerance.

A prize-giving ceremony for those who came up with the most original ways of building bridges between the different faiths was held in a mosque in Zurich.

The top award went to Lucerne's Kantonschule for a video project that encouraged students to talk about their religious backgrounds and film their experiences.

One of the budding filmmakers - a 19-year-old Moslem student, called Erkan - said his aim was to put an end to prejudices about Islam. "In recent times, there have been a lot of racist problems here in Switzerland. With this project, we just wanted to say that people can live together and communicate through their religions."

The second prize went to the Realschule Matt in Littau for a boardgame based on the ideals of religious tolerance. Each player represents one the world's five biggest religions and each must reach a platform where they take part in a dialogue to promote understanding. The interesting thing about the game is that there is no one winner - either everyone wins or everyone loses.

A common theme running through all the entries was that everyone has a responsibility to respect others' beliefs. That sentiment struck a chord with the Moslem representative at the awards ceremony, Halide Hatipoglu. "Religious tolerance starts in the home. And if it is properly communicated to children, then dialogue and understanding will grow among the religions."

The president of "Weltethos", Professor Hans Küng, also attended the ceremony. He believes peace among nations won't become a reality until there is peace among faiths. "The major religions of the world have common ethical values. For instance, they all preach the same golden rule: 'don't do unto others what you do not want done to yourself'. It would be a great achievement if children learnt this rule - not in theory, but in practice."

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