“Educating is the road to the future and peace”: fra Ibrahim Faltas, director of the Terra Sancta Schools, is increasingly convinced of this.
At the school of coexistence
We are talking about twenty schools and some 12,000 pupils (in addition to about a thousand teachers and other staff), in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Cyprus. “A particularity of the schools of the Custody of the Holy Land is that they foster a mixed environment: Christians and Muslims study in the same classrooms and therefore grow up together, they learn to get to know and to respect one another,” says fra Ibrahim.
Particular attention is paid to the aspect of coexistence, both during the hours of lessons and in the other activities. “To encourage this aspect,” fra Ibrahim emphasizes, “over time the schools have also added recreational spaces, where the children can do sport and play together.”
A path to the future
“Another feature of our schools is that they are within everybody’s reach: our fees are very low compared to other schools and the Custody has always been committed to covering the rest of the expenses. This is to foster access to education for even the most disadvantaged children,” because we believe this is the path to give them a better future” but also to “allow them to experience the beauty of living together with others, respecting and accepting their diversity.”
The war in the classroom
Since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, the repercussions have also been felt in the classrooms at several levels. Fra Ibrahim cannot forget the return to school in Jerusalem, after two weeks of “curfew.” “The pupils came back completely changed, they had lost their smiles. In a pre-school class, one little girl wanted to call her father every five minutes to be sure that he did not leave the house and that he was still alive.” The older children showed feelings of anger, frustration, rebellion and protest. “In this case too, school was and continues to be fundamental to channel the energies in the right direction: not to destroy but to build the future.”
Another problem that the war has brought with it is unemployment, which has had an effect on the payment of the school fees. Those who lose their jobs can no longer pay for the education of their children. At the moment, in some schools, especially in the Palestinian Territories, where there is no state welfare system, the Custody is making a great effort to cover 100% of the costs.
A school of peace
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”: the school day begins every morning with the “simple prayer” attributed to St Francis of Assisi. The children learn it from pre-school, and every day these words of peace, of love and of forgiveness are the gateway to the school and the world, where they are asked in the first person to build up peace, co-existence and respect.