Schools key in combating intolerance, U.S. monitoring group told

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Experts on intolerance suggested to the U.S. Helsinki Commission that schools should adopt curricula that promote tolerance for minorities, including Jews.

The three experts, chosen to represent distinct aspects of intolerance, spoke Wednesday on the issues of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and discrimination of Christians and members of other religions.

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the director of international affairs for the American Jewish Committee, highlighted the prevalence of anti-Semitic discourse in many countries, even those without large Jewish populations. Baker cited Spain, home to 40,000 Jews, as a nation with considerably rampant anti-Semitism.

He said, however, that educational programs put in place there that stressed tolerance in the country’s secondary schools illicited positive reponses from teachers and administrators. Baker encouraged other countries to adopt similar programs.

Baker, along with Adil Akhmetov of Kazakhstan and Mario Mauro of Italy, stressed that better methods of reporting hate crimes were needed to adequately assess their prevalence and to determine how authorities should address them.

To combat intolerance, Akhemtov said, nations should embrace the similarities of groups rather than their differences.

"Common values should be broadcast widely and often," he stressed.

The commission, also known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, is an independent U.S. government agency that monitors compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other committments mandated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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