The Community of Tolerance Education Centres celebrates its 20th anniversary

On 15 November, the Community of Tolerance Education Centres celebrated the 20th anniversary of establishing Tolerance Education Centres in Lithuania.

Early on Wednesday morning, on the eve of the International Day of Tolerance, the representatives of the Tolerance Education Centres gathered at the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and were welcomed by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, who said: “I am sincerely pleased with the active activities of the Centres, the message of community and respect for others that is being spread, the historical memory that is being preserved, and the citizenship that is being taught.”

The artistic composition “Baisogala from 1847 to 1941”, performed by the Baisogala Cultural Centre, invited the audience to get acquainted with the history of the Jews of Baisogala. A group of students, led by director Modestas Vaitkevičius and leader Neringa Bernadickienė, in 10 minutes, without words, using shadow theatre effects, sensitively told the story of the local Jewish community, which had existed for a hundred years, and the total destruction of the community in 1941.

Addressing the educational community members, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania stressed that “it is very important to know one’s own history, whatever it may be. Historical memory must be alive; it creates the Lithuania of the future. We draw wisdom from the pages of the past. Mistakes remind us of the sorrows and crimes not prevented in time. Let us not forget or gloss over the inconvenient twists and turns of our history – they are lessons, they are warnings that we need to hear and take to heart if we are to prevent them from happening again”.

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė presented letters of appreciation to the most active Tolerance Education Centres, which carried out the highest number of activities: Alytus “Adolfo Ramanausko-Vanago“ Gymnasium, Druskininkai “Atgimimo” School, Kaunas IX Fort Museum, Kaunas “Veršvų“ Gymnasium, Kėdainiai Regional Museum, Klaipėda “Gedminų“ Pro-Gymnasium, Kupiškis “Povilo Matulionio” Pro-Gymnasium, Mažeikiai “Merkelio Račkausko“ Gymnasium, Balbieriškis Primary School, Radviliskis “Lizdeikos“ Gymnasium, Baisogala Cultural Centre, Ariogala Gymnasium from Raseiniai dstr., Varėna “Ąžuolo” Gymnasium, Vilnius “Saulėtekio” School-Multifunctional Centre, Vilnius „Simono Daukanto“ Gymnasium, Sugihara Foundation “Diplomats for Life.”

Paulė Kuzmickienė, Chair of the Commission of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania on State Historical Memory and Fights for Freedom, said that she knew many of the teachers from the events organised on the historical theme, which showed that these teachers were active and conveyed an important message to their students.

Arvydas Stankus, principal of Ariogala Gymnasium, and Milda Padegimaitė, principal of Varėnos “Ąžuolo” Gymnasium, spoke about the activities of the Tolerance Education Centres and their impact on school communities. Ingrida Vilkienė, Education Programme Coordinator of the International Commission, gave an overview of the most important events and projects implemented in cooperation with the Tolerance Education Centres over the past twenty years. Ronaldas Račinskas, Executive Director of the International Commission,  welcomed the establishment of the 173rd Tolerance Education Centre at Kuliai Cultural Centre in the district of Plungė.

The President of the International Commission, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, who was visiting Washington DC then, conveyed his congratulations and best wishes to the educational community. On behalf of Mr Zingeris, thanks were expressed to the Teachers – Coordinators of the Centres of Tolerance who have retired from teaching but are still actively involved in local community activities. (Letter of acknowledgement were given (forwarded) to Rūta Jasevičienė (Varėna), Tautvydas Anilionis (Panevėžys), Vitas Rymantas Sidaravičius (Balbieriškis), Vidmantas Jukonis (Biržai), Nijola Bernotavičienė (Vilnius).

Journalist Rimas Bružas, who was a guest at the event, shared his thoughts on tolerance – and intolerance, touching sensitively on the wars in Ukraine and Israel. The journalist stressed that “tolerance is mainly the result of intellectual efforts; it requires knowledge and certain experiences.”

Ronaldas Račinskas, who hosted the event, said, “Tolerance should be an important word in everyone’s life, but tolerance should not become indifference or tolerance for evil. Because evil cannot be tolerated”.