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The Peace Tree, and
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bulletMitra Sen: "Let us embrace the beauty of every culture and faith to create peace in our world."

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An idea of a Canadian filmmaker / schoolteacher:

The Canadian government promotes multiculturalism instead of the melting pot approach of the U.S. But not everyone favors the celebration of cultures and religions which are different from their own. Mitra Sen, a public schoolteacher at Inglewood Heights Junior Public School in Scarborough, ON, experienced this dislike of multiculturalism first hand.

She received her B. Ed. from the University of Toronto, and is also a graduate of York University's Film Production program. She is a follower of Hinduism -- perhaps the most tolerant and inclusive of the major world religions. She became concerned when the parents of some of her students did not allow the children to take part in her class' multicultural celebrations. The parents wanted to isolate their children from cultural and religious beliefs that were not their own. Ms. Sen said: "I've had children who can't participate in our celebrations or in our music and art programs. Usually, they don't know why, but are simply told by their parents or Sunday school teachers that they can't." In the case of recent immigrants from other countries she said that some parents: "...are concerned about the Western influence on their kids growing up here and want them to hold on to their heritage." 1

Ms. Sen is also an accomplished filmmaker. According to the South Asian Literary and Theatre Arts Festival (SALTAF):

"Mitra's first independent production, 'just a little red dot …' inspired by a true story, empowers young people to challenge racism and shares the message of peace and understanding between people of all backgrounds. The film has received 12 international awards including the Most Popular Film at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, Best Short Film at the Children's Film Festival in India, and the Golden Book Prize at the Roshd Film Festival for Best Educational Film. 'just a little red dot …' has been invited to over 30 film festivals including Roger Ebert's Film Festival and has traveled extensively to universities internationally that deal with Peace Studies."

"Ms. Sen was the Director of Programming for ReelWorld Film Festival 2003, 2004 in Toronto and the Assistant Director of the critically acclaimed CBC series Degrassi Junior High." 2

Her concern about her pupils motivated her to create a 48 minute movie: "The Peace Tree" (2005). It portrays the wishes of three girls -- two Muslim and one Christian. The Muslims want to celebrate Christmas -- the day that Christians associate with the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ). The Christian girl wants to observe Eid (a.k.a. Id al-Fitr and 'Id). It a Muslim celebration held on the day after the end of the lunar month of Ramadan. Ramadan recalls the giving of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an to humanity. It is a time of great rejoicing. Houses are decorated; Muslims buy gifts for relatives. 

In the movie, the girls cooperate in order to find a way to overcome their parents' resistance and let them observe each other's celebrations. They succeed in teaching their parents "...the importance of sharing and celebrating diversity together. Through their struggles, they create a unique symbol – The Peace Tree, a tree that highlights the symbols from all our cultures and faiths to reflect the beauty of 'diversity in unity'." "Symbols like the origami paper crane, the Moon and the Star (from Islam), the Ohm (from Hinduism), the Star of David (from Judaism) and the dove are highlighted from every culture and faith on The Peace Tree to celebrate peace and create hope for our planet." 4

The Peace Tree film has been invited to several film festivals including the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, Fici Film Festival for Children and Young People in Spain, Taiwan International Children's Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Melbourne International Children's Film Festival, and the Mill Valley Film Festival. It was recently invited to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington,.

The film has also inspired the creation of Peace Trees in schools around the world.

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Peace Tree Day:

According to Sandlewood Productions:

"The production of the film inspired Writer/Director/Producer Mitra Sen to bring the Peace Tree to reality by creating Peace Tree Day. The purpose of Peace Tree Day is to create a common festival where families and friends from all faiths and races can learn about and celebrate each other's cultures, traditions and festivals together. Peace Tree Day is a time to educate, donate and celebrate. This new festival will be celebrated on June 1 of every year. 5

The purpose of the Peace Tree Day is:

"To create a common festival where families and friends from all faiths and races can learn about and celebrate each other’s cultures, traditions and festivals together. The concept of Peace Tree Day is to educate, donate and celebrate diversity." 6

Initially, two Peace Tree Committees have been created: one in Calcutta, India, and the other in Toronto, Canada. Families, schools and community groups are encouraged to create their own Peace Tree and hang symbols from different religions and cultures on the tree. Their web site has a LOT of ideas on implementing Peace Tree Day in various locales. 6

The committees are attempting to organize a special meeting of children at the border between India and Pakistan -- two countries which have experienced a great deal of conflict over the past six decades. The children will create peace symbols from their cultures and faiths and create a Peace Tree at the border. In future years, they hope to repeat this celebration at the borders of other countries that have been in conflict. They hope that the children involved "will continue their friendship and realize the importance of respect and compassion for each other."

The world’s first Peace Tree Day will be launched in Toronto, ON at City Hall on 2006-JUN-01.

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References used:

  1. Nicholas Keung, "A peace tree blossoms in Scarborough," The Toronto Star, 2004-DEC-05, Pages A1 & A17.
  2. "Mitra Sen," South Asian Literary and Theatre Arts Festival, at: http://www.netsap.org/
  3. "Peace Tree, The," Bite the Mango Film Festival, 2005-SEP-23-29, at: http://www.nmpft.org.uk/
  4. "Peace Tree (Family friendly), Quid Novis, at: http://www.quidnovis.com/  
  5. "The Peace Tree," Sandalwood Productions, at: http://www.sandalwoodproductions.com/
  6. "Peace Tree Day," at: http://www.sandalwoodproductions.com/

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Site navigation:

Home > Peace > here

Home > Religious information > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Christianity > Beliefs, practices, etc > Holy days > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Religious hatred & conflicts > Specific conflicts > Xmas conflict > here

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-05
Latest update: 2005-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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