CEDAR programs combine a unique pedagogy of cognitive learning (lectures) with experiential learning (site visits) and affective learning (group work). This structure, together with its international and diverse body of fellows, provides a powerful experience of transformative knowledge that forces us to challenge our assumptions about the self, the other, and the terms of our interaction. Our focus seeks not to trivialize, privatize, or otherwise “overcome” difference, but rather to accept the constitutive dissimilarities among human individuals and groups and from that baseline begin the hard work of learning to live with them and build a modicum of trust and solidarity despite these differences and all that they imply.
“At the school, I learned to see myself through the eyes of the other . . . . We will never find . . . solutions if we cannot see ourselves as the other sees us. The program helped me shift my consciousness.”
For over a decade we have run programs in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Affiliate schools and programs have now been developed in Bulgaria, Canada and Uganda. Further projects are underway in Botswana and Zimbabwe. All share the same pedagogy and approach, and all bring together an international cohort from all walks of life–clergy, teachers, school administrators, NGO leaders, civil servants, educators, and journalists–in an intensive and transformative two-week program. The program builds upon a combination of one or two lectures, practicums (site visits, where theoretical knowledge is wedded to real-life experience), and facilitation (work in small groups, pursuing the affective aspects of knowledge acquisition).
CEDAR is a unique initiative. It combines a global perspective on social and religious thought with contemporary research on tolerance, and civil society and a pluralistic approach to pedagogic practice. Its goal is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which divergent religious and secular models of politics and society engage one another. Its guiding principle is that in order to build relations of tolerance and understanding between groups and thus shape a civil society, we must break down the barrier between modern, secular views and more traditional values. In their place we must develop political orientations and social practices that draw on a wide range of traditions (including religious traditions), as well as the insights of secular modernity, in new and creative ways.
Four major outcomes of CEDAR are envisioned:
- Transformation of the awareness and perception of the participants. While not attenuating in any way their commitment to their own religious traditions, or civil, tribal and national identities, CEDAR programs ask the participants to look at other traditions with an open mind and not view them solely as a threat.
- An enhanced understanding of what has generally been viewed as a tension between modern, secular ideas and more traditional understandings of self and society. Hence, the goal is to inculcate in the participants an understanding that to shape a truly civil society devoted to tolerance and the plurality of the human experience we need to draw on religious traditions as well as modern, secular thought and practice.
- An ability on the part of participants to learn to “live together differently” by extending somewhat the boundaries of trust and moral credit that they are willing to grant those beyond their own communities. In so doing, fellows develop a working “knowledge for” rather than claims to a “knowledge of” the other, as they question their own assumptions about the world, their own communities, and the communities of others.
- A commitment on the part of the participants to an ongoing global effort and engagement concerning these themes. To that end they will build on existing CEDAR programs to establish long-term relationships, webs of interaction, and projects of civic engagement around the continued sharing of practical knowledge, and research materials, as well as the social and political experience of all fellows in the network.