By CHARLES C. HAYNES
Recently I had an opportunity to sit in on a videoconference dialogue between students in a Utah public school and students in a Catholic school in the Philippines.
At one point in the discussion, a few students in both places began to talk about how uncomfortable it can be for someone from a religious minority or someone not affiliated with any religion to live in a community with a predominate faith.
By the end of the discussion, it was clear that the frank exchange had awakened students of the majority faiths in both places to the feelings and experiences of students from other faiths and beliefs sitting next to them in their classrooms.
Aha moments like this occur frequently in Face to Faith, an innovative education program offered free to schools by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Face to Faith uses technology to give students ages 12-17 from throughout the world meaningful opportunities to express their beliefs and values and to learn about the beliefs and values of others.
More than 800 schools in 19 countries use Face to Faith: Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Singapore, UAE, UK, Kosovo, Ukraine, and USA. This includes almost 200 public and private schools in the United States. The program is most often integrated into the social studies curriculum, but it is also used in other courses or as a school club.
Students involved in Face to Faith develop skills in respectful dialogue, active listening, and conflict management. They have opportunities to build relationships and exchange ideas with their peers around the world through facilitated videoconferences and a secure online community.
In addition to encouraging student voice and civil dialogue, Face to Faith enables students to learn about religions and cultures. Teachers are given a menu of teaching modules on global issues such as wealth, poverty, and charity; the environment; and the art of expression. Each lesson exposes students to the ways in which the major religious traditions of the world approach global concerns. All of the modules use state-of-the-art cooperative learning strategies and provide civic engagement opportunities tied to questions of social justice.
Face to Faith is not just another education program — nor is it an “add-on” to what overworked teachers must already do. Rather, Face to Faith teaches core civic skills necessary for negotiating religious and cultural differences in a diverse society and world.
To learn more about Face to Faith, visit tonyblairfaithfoundation.org. To get involved, register your interest on that web site and the Face to Faith team will contact you. If you have questions, contact Kristen Looney, U.S. Coordinator for F2F at Kristen.firstname.lastname@example.org.