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April 05, 2003

Peace program aimed at children

  • Kanahwa County Public Library sponsors event
  • By Dawn Miller

    Azita Misaghi had already developed a 40-minute routine for teaching elementary students about prejudice, understanding and peace before the United States invaded Iraq.

    Since the war started, she has continued to teach children about peaceful interpersonal relations through an effort organized by the Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council.

    “The mission of this group is to promote peace and understanding amongst different faiths. As part of our program, we decided to carry this to what better audience than to our hope for the future, that is, our children,” Misaghi said.

    Most recently, she has scheduled several sessions at branches of the Kanawha County Public Library. The next one will be at 2 p.m. today at the St. Albans branch.

    Misaghi uses books and activities to illustrate complex ideas. She asks children to choose between a large beautifully wrapped box, and an uneven package unattractively bound in tape. They learn the meaning of the word “prejudice” and examine their own prejudices about the pretty box and the ugly box.

    “Through these interactive methods, we talk about peace and the factors that lead to peace,” she said.

    She asks children to reach into a bag and identify the object inside by only touching it. But different children touch different parts of the object, and their answers differ. They practice putting their positions into words to convince each other who is right. She hopes that the children carry what they learn into dealings with other people in life.

    “I want to concentrate on the spiritual virtues, the spiritual parts of people that lead to peace. It doesn’t matter what faith background you are coming from,” said Misaghi, who represents the Baha’i faith on the Interfaith Council.

    “If we develop our peacefulness, if we develop our love, if we look at mankind as our own family, it doesn’t matter what faith group you come from. Children see it. They understand that.”

    She incorporated Sept. 11 into her presentation as a useful example. “How did everyone feel after Sept. 11?” she asks children. They always respond: “Sad.”

    Even people who did not directly lose a brother or sister or mother or father felt like they did, like everyone was part of the same family.

    “That’s how we should feel about each other every day,” Misaghi said. “I draw upon that to show how important it is to treat each other as members of the same family. If we thought of each other as members of same family, would we be willing to go bomb our mothers or brothers or fathers in another country?”

    Her own faith teaches that peace is inevitable, either through unimaginable horrors or through cooperation, she said.

    She had hoped that her children would live in a world without war. Now she hopes for their children, or maybe their grandchildren.

    “I’m being a hopeless optimist, I know,” she said.

    The free sessions are limited to 20 children in kindergarten through fifth grade. To register, call the library where the program is offered:

  • St. Albans, 2 p.m. on Saturday, 722-4244.
  • Cross Lanes, 5:30 p.m. on April 15, 776-5999.
  • Sissonville, 6:30 p.m. on May 15, 984-2244.
  • Charleston, 2 p.m. on May 17, 343-4646.
  • To contact staff writer Dawn Miller, use e-mail or call 348-5117.

    ©Copyright 2003, The Charleston Gazette (WV, USA)

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