The first Ethics Education training took place between July 14th and 18th for the representatives of 23 institutions with the support of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology of Matanzas, the Christian Institute on Gender, GNRC-Cuba and GNRC-LAC. Forty-two adults and 17 children and adolescents attended the training, which was held at the Seminary of Matanzas. The methodology from the contents of “Learning to Live Together” guided the training as well as the training’s general objective: “Promoting a culture of peace and responsible and positive citizenship in the relationships and spaces in which children, adolescents and youth develop; including the prevention of violence in families, schools and the community.”
The youth participants’ interest and degree of commitment as well as their skills and experiences in theological, pastoral and educational topics made this training rich in sharing learning experiences. The intense heat during the training did not bring down the energy and dedication that everyone contributed to in the different experiential and extraordinary inter-religious dialogues held throughout the workshop. These dialogues allowed for participants to better understand the spirituality of “the other” with moments of prayer and in the presentation of the different religious traditions represented in the training.
The presence of representatives from faith-based institutions was great, diverse, and predominantly Christian; characteristic of Cuba’s religious sphere. The institutions included the Christian Center of Reflection and Dialogue of Cuba, the Kairos Center of the First Baptist Church, the Christian Agrarian Brotherhood, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Catholic Church of the Bayamo-Manzanillo Diocese, the Maria Reina Catholic Church Institute, the Cuban Church of God, the Episcopal Church, the Friends-Quakers, the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba, the Christian Institute on Gender, the Evangelical Seminary of Theology of Matanzas, the Kardecian Crusade Spiritism Society, the Jewish Community of Cuba and the Bahá’í faith. The presence of three representatives from institutions from other countries also enriched the event: the Catholic and Methodist churches from Panama, both which are part of the Ecumenical Committee of Panama, and the Westminster Presbyterian Church from the U.S.
In addition, three non-religious institutions sent representatives to the training, whose perspectives enriched the formation of the dialogue. The first two included the Ministry of Education and the Federation of Cuban Women, institutions of great importance in Cuba’s social efforts with children. The third was the Youth Repairing Dreams Theatre Company of Matanzas, who did not just share their art with us, but also the lay ethical visions of Cuban youth. The fraternal and respectful contributions of these participants with regard to the training’s ethical and religious topics are very noteworthy in this training.
The situation of children’s rights in Cuba is different to that of the rest of the Latin American and Caribbean region. In Cuba children are not malnourished and they are guaranteed the rights to healthcare and education. Participants focused on domestic violence as the problem most relevant to the development and well-being of Cuban children and adolescents. The descriptions of domestic violence discussed in the training were similar to the situations in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, confirming that it is an ethical challenge for Cuba as well as for the rest of the region. Domestic violence therefore became a main topic throughout the workshop, together with learning experiences in the conveyance and education of values in the children and adolescents.These values will be promoted by religious institutions in formal education as well as by community institutions.
The training’s evaluations provide a summary of the life and educational experiences that had the greatest impact. The training provided for a very harmonious and shared inter-religious experience and brought a concrete understanding of living in peace despite differences. It inspired personal empowerment and the appreciation of others. It brought about the awareness of our society’s main needs and made it possible to have a group project on preserving values. Amongst both believers and non-believers, the need to unite was made clear in order to construct a national and international network to work on ethics education and a culture of peace in families and in communities, and to promote the rights of children, as their protection is of vital importance. Participants learned that big accomplishments can be achieved with few resources, that it is possible to share experiences, and that the training material can be applied in all contexts. Additionally, the training brought forth an array of knowledge and opportunities, as well as communication techniques and behavior rooted in values. The workshop “…shook the ground we walk on, fueling my commitment to society.”.
This training had an extraordinary impact. Just one month after it was held, we were already receiving reports and news about its results:
In the introduction to a letter written after the training, the Adventist Church stated, “Just shortly after the end of this workshop’s activities, efforts are already being made; an unmistakable sign of the impact that it had.” The letter indicated that through professionals of the Adventist faith working in education, the experience would spread on a national level both within and outside this religious community. They also stated that their different ministries would organize to participate in the Day of Prayer and Action for Children
The Maria Reina Catholic Church Institute wrote, “Participating in these days was a great experience. I was impressed, as I had never experienced anything similar. The program’s methodology impacted me a lot because it can be applied to different contexts.” This quote is from a letter explaining that the teachers from the Maria Reina Summer Schools will hold an awareness-raising meeting in order to introduce Learning to Live Together in their educational programming.
The Cuban Kardecian Crusade Spiritism Society stated, “…We are very excited to work in the community of Los Sitios (a neighborhood in downtown Havana) in applying the experiences of the activities and different techniques from the Learning to Live Together manual.” This quote is from a letter that also included the preparations within this institution for celebrating the Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
Most importantly, participants have already put their knowledge in practice: reports have been received on trainings held in Havana by Liset Echenique of the Catholic Church, Yanixeides Ramírez of the Seventh Day Adventist Church; and in Ranchuelo by Mariela Inufio of the Bahai community. We also know there are other official meetings being held in other institutions in order to implement Learning to Live Together in their communities and in preparation for the Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
The commitments made at the end of the training are encouraging and concrete, they are short and mid-term, and some are already being implemented. The following is a summary of the commitments:
With regard to implementing Ethics Education: Establish a joint training plan among the churches, creating coordinating and training teams, scheduling inter-religious educational meetings, and sharing experiences. Implement awareness and training meetings within the respective institutions and reproduce the trainings in their own communities. Create a vacation bible school based on the manual and implement the manual in summer camps. As a network, focus on two geographic areas in fulfilling this objective: Havana and Matanzas.
With regard to the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (DPAC): Bring awareness to the churches on the importance of this day and implement its celebration. Hold several ecumenical and inter-religious celebrations. Use the institution’s publications and main information distribution area to make announcements about the day. Create informational material and disburse it through different media explaining the significance and importance of the day and its celebration. Involve community institutions and educational organizations, uniting the intentions of goodwill in favor of children, adolescents and youth.
Implement networking: Coordinate efforts that target children’s rights together with ethics education. Create a system for this network, evaluating already implemented actions and planning for new ones through a meeting with the group to be held after one year. Encourage networking through the organization of competitions, photography expositions, discussions, exchanges, debates, sports events and cooperative games. Maintain contact with GNRC – Arigatou International.
The training was rich in commitment and skilled individuals: the charisma and commitment of Ofelia Ortega; the professional dedication of Moraima González; the unconditional support of Liudmila Hernández, Rolando Verdecia and Greta Montoya as the co-facilitators from Cuba; the technical and logistical support of Rocco Nania, Jesús Martinez and Abel Paseiro; and the strong enthusiasm and commitment of external coordination by Larry Madrigal, Monica Bernal and Mercedes Román.
Report prepared by Mercedes Román