RESPECT each other!” were the words 15-year-old Nor Fatihah Hishamuddin used to sum up the recent Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) workshop at her school.
“We must respect and protect human dignity,” said Nor Fatihah.
The workshop that was co-facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), allowed 60 students from SM Sains Kuala Selangor to explore various issues related to conflict and violent situations.
Unsure of what to expect from the workshop, the students arrived with sceptical thoughts.
However, as the session went on, they soon warmed up as participation (and noise levels) increased dramatically — the students went about brainstorming, conducting role-plays, constructing collages and posters, as well as studying case studies and videos.
The workshop was an exciting and educational post-exams experience for them.
As one student put it: “the rights of being a human” is something everyone experiences in life and yet it is taken for granted.
EHL is an education programme that introduces learners to the basic rules and principles of international humanitarian law.
Though it is a law applicable in armed conflict, its underlying principle — respect of life and human dignity — is relevant at all times.
By exploring ethical and humanitarian issues that arise during armed conflict, EHL helps young people embrace the principles of humanity in their daily lives.
Student Mohd Aiman Hakim said he has learnt how to protect his own dignity and that of others while Rynson Kuan felt it gave him a better appreciation of life.
Facilitators built on the students’ own experiences and way of thinking to examine the destructiveness of war, so it was no surprise that the workshop left the students feeling grateful to be living in “harmony in a peaceful country”.
One student added: “though we are from different races or religions, we have to unite.”
ICRC programme officer Chin Lili said this general reaction proved that EHL is not just about humanitarian law and teaching children about war; “it is essentially about humanitarian principles, inculcating an appreciation for human dignity and its importance in life”.
This was echoed by the students as they learnt how to respect each other and show compassion and mercy towards others.
Most were surprised to discover that in a bullying case, it is not only the victim who suffers as the oppressor’s dignity is also affected.
“We must not bully another person because it can damage our dignity as well as affect theirs,” said student Mavisha Manivannan.
Chin explained that even when one is not in agreement with the rest, one’s opinions can still be shared albeit in a polite and assertive manner.
“Everyone has rights; the students learnt that they should not be shy to voice their opinions whilst respecting the views of others,” she said.
Teacher Husni Dahlan, who initiated and organised the workshop, said the students now understood better the meaning of human dignity and the need for humanitarian law.