Benenden School joined the Young Ambassadors scheme in 2017. Emma, Iona, Kate and Lauren (Year 10), Ifeoluwa, Lara and Isabel (Year 12), Imogen and Damilola (Year 13) consider the importance of learning about each other’s beliefs and values, and what it means to be a Young Ambassador for RE.
Why should we learn about each other’s beliefs and values?
Learning about each other’s beliefs and values is imperative. History has shown us that prejudice in diverse populations has caused events such as the Holocaust, and various religious and racial conflicts. These immoral events are often caused by ignorance of those who resist cohesion and acceptance of minority cultures. Lack of tolerance continues today to lead to extreme violence and death; for example the attack on a gay bar in Orlando, 2016. This type of hate crime cannot be accepted: people must be educated in order to prevent these kinds of irrational actions. Education in different cultural and religious beliefs helps to prevent misconceptions that cause discriminatory ideologies such as Islamophobia.
More positively and practically, studies show that the job market will become more international in the future. This means that global encounters will be more common and, in many cases, a necessity. One way to be equipped for this is to understand different beliefs and values, which will develop social skills such as courtesy and open-mindedness. If for example, you have some prior knowledge of a person’s religious beliefs without them having to explain first, you have already shown your interest in that person; they are more likely to feel understood and accepted. Ultimately, we can also learn from each other’s beliefs and values. Different people see things from different perspectives, and knowing these can help us to be more accepting. Life would be incredibly monotonous without a variety of perspectives, attitudes and ideas towards the day to day questions and challenges we face in society.
It is vitally important, then, that young people are factually informed of core religious beliefs; the differences between religions and, denominationally, within them. The media can often manipulate one’s mind because of the insensitive or incorrect depiction of religions – we must instead learn from correct resources. In summary, learning about religions in school exposes us to diverse ideas, which makes us more understanding and compassionate. It also allows us to develop rounded and fact-based conclusions and opinions.
What does it mean to be a young ambassador for RE?
RE is one of our favourite subjects because it is incredibly important, interesting and relevant. RE is unique in many ways because it opens one’s mind and the content is not dictated. It is thought-provoking and encourages us to express our own views in class – we learn the most about humanity and the diversity of our world during our hours in RE.
We are passionate about promoting excellence in RE nationally and would like to discuss and champion the various aims and goals of it. RE needs to develop our understanding of past and current affairs and stretch our minds on topics that are too often pushed under the rug. RE should not only be about religion, of course – it can and should deal with various philosophical and ethical issues of ultimate importance, such as: How did the universe begin? What happens to us after death? Is capital punishment morally acceptable? The list of questions asked in RE is huge.
We would enjoy meeting other young ambassadors with potentially different views, which would allow us to branch out socially and philosophically, and perhaps get involved in debates. We would also appreciate the opportunity to talk to adults who work to support RE and hear their opinions about the way the subject is taught. We feel that a subject which is so relevant to modern society should have a vital place on any school curriculum, and our peers should be encouraged to consider the subject for GCSE, A Level and beyond.