Tony Blair visits Jakarta`s Al-Azhar high school

Tony Blair visits Jakarta`s Al-Azhar high school

Mantan Perdana Menteri Inggris Tony Blair (REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday visited Al-Azhar 1 Senior High School, South Jakarta, to have a discussion with some students and teachers in a Tony Blair Foundations Face to Faith Program.

Tony Blair, who is the patron of the Tony Blair Foundation, stated that the Face to Faith Program is a platform for information sharing and discussion by connecting students and teachers from several countries around the world.

"The program brings together young people from different places across the world. The purpose actually is to educate young people from an early age to understand and get along with each other," Tony Blair said.

The aim of the program was to show that the idea of mutual respect across the boundaries of faith should be taken seriously by every country and by every government.

"It should be a commitment of each one of us as global citizens today," he said.

Through the program, the governments around the world were expected to ensure their youngsters understand differences and learn from those differences as well as live with those differences.

"Because that is the best way to create a harmonious world," Blair said.

"If one does not understand diversity as a strength, then one will view diversity as a danger," Blair said.

Blair appreciated Indonesia, as it was the country with the largest Muslim population and had a national motto, Unity in Diversity, which emphasizes that strength comes from diversity and unity across the boundaries of faith. "So, Indonesia is a perfect place for this program to work," he said.

In the meantime, country director of Tony Blair Faith Foundation Wati Wardani stated that the program provides students with two methods of interaction--videoconference through Skype and blog or discussion forum.

Every time students enter a videoconference, they will be assisted by representatives from Tony Blair Foundation Headquarters in London, who will guide them in holding discussions with students around the world.

"Besides assisting in information exchange on various cultural and religious backgrounds, the program is also aimed at preventing conflict, religious prejudice, extremism, and stereotyping, as well as misunderstanding or misconception," Wardani noted.

Wardani, who is a former English teacher in Al-Azhar 1 Senior High School, pointed out that about 150 registered schools were available in Indonesia, but only 60 are active in the Face to Faith Program.

"Internet connectivity is one of our constrains," she said.

The program even allows students to interact with peers in some countries involved in war or conflict, such as Palestine, Ukraine, Kosovo, and Lebanon.

During the visit, Blair and Al-Azhars students held videoconference with students from India discussing some topics about various cultural and religious backgrounds.

Blair also held a round-table discussion with dozens of teachers from several schools in Indonesia.

"The greatest thing that we can learn from this program is appreciation of differences," Maulidia, a teacher of Labschool Rawamangun Senior High School, noted.

She said, "Students are able to understand that difference is not something weird, so they appreciate others."

One of the rules to be followed in videoconferencing is that students should not say the word "we" but have to say "I" or "my opinion" in addressing their views.

"When many of the students say this is our opinion, the students from other countries think its the opinion of that country. In fact, students bring their own opinions. This is one the greatest advantages," Maulidia added.

Face to Faith Program has already been introduced in many schools since 2009. The program is for youngsters aged 12-17 years, and over 100 thousand students have taken part.

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