A Sporting Path to Peace
The power of sports to help people set aside their differences in the name of competition has long been recognized. In 1892, Pierre de Coubertin argued for the reinstatement of the long-dormant Olympic Games by saying that the day international contests were active, “the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally.”
That same force is an integral part of the approach of the Institute for International Sport (IIS), a group that stages sporting events to foster friendship and goodwill around the world.
Founded in 1986 by Dan Doyle, the IIS focuses on peace through sport and the arts. The organization brings together youth from around the world, who learn that there are many human truths that unite them despite barriers that may divide them. Major events include the Scholar-Athlete Games, National Sportsmanship Day, and the World Youth Peace Summit.
The Fetzer Institute is teaming with IIS to develop and pilot a peace curriculum for schools to help students develop empathy and foster love and forgiveness.
The partnership will allow for content development, evaluation and testing, production of online curriculum materials, outreach to recruit new partners and piloting the curriculum at three schools. Students, adult leaders, coaches, and educators will share their reflections about love and forgiveness in sport.
Love and forgiveness became the cornerstone of IIS programming in 1989, when the Institute launched Belfast United in Northern Ireland. The program placed equal numbers of Catholic and Protestant youth on the same teams, and each team member was asked to look at the world through the eyes of the opposite religion.
As the various teams worked together over a period of months, the participants were asked to move toward forgiveness of the other side, which would lead toward love of all participants. Belfast United was hailed as one of the most effective programs in forging peace in Northern Ireland.
The IIS replicated the concept in Burundi, a small land-locked African country. Project Burundi involved the Institute mixing the warring Hutu and Tutsi tribes together on basketball teams. Project Burundi led to Mr. Doyle publishing his 2013 novel, An African Rebound. The IIS is now focusing some of its peace efforts on the entire African continent. In June 2013, the IIS collaborated with World Scholar-Athlete Games graduates residing in Namibia to administer the highly successful Namibian Scholar-Athlete Games. This event will lead to a full-scale African Scholar-Athlete Games in 2015.
Mr. Doyle stated, “We are excited to be working with the Fetzer Institute on a peace program that will favorably impact students, educators, and families on a wide scale.”
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Sport & Embodied Spiritual Practice.