In Bullying Definitions

Sectarian Bullying; More Than Just The Schoolyard

Oftentimes, parents wonder why their child is being considered a bully at school. Many parents do not understand that children learn from their parent’s words, actions and behaviors. Parents will deny that they themselves have done anything to create this behavior in their children. Most often, this is due to the fact that they do not see their own Sectarian behavior as a form of bullying.

What is Sectarianism

Many people grew up not realizing that Sectarian behavior is a form of bullying. What exactly is the definition of Sectarian and Sectarian behavior? One dictionary will tell us that Sectarianism is the act of hatred, bigotry and discrimination by giving importance to the differences between classes, religions and political factions. This would tell us that some people see their beliefs of religion or political choice as the only true and correct one. These people will infer hatred and discriminating actions towards persons of any other belief or standing. Therefore, the definition of Sectarianism is the firm belief in one’s own religious or political beliefs, also pertaining to one’s class or ethnicity.

The role of protective behavior is devastating as we see today across the globe, in our country and many others. Due to horrific circumstances that have taken place in America and Iraq, along with many other countries, Sectarian violence has escalated. The Iraq sectarian violence continues to worsen between the Sunni and Shia groups. Each side holds firm to their beliefs of religion and wants to control the other. This violence has continued throughout the last century, with the non-ending battles between the religious groups. The United States is itself, home to many clashes between religious groups and political factions. Most evident is the negative treatment towards Muslims since 9/11. Although most Americans do understand that not all Muslims are responsible for the horrific actions taken against the United States, many hold all Muslims responsible and treat them as if they are not human, that they are violent towards Americans and do not deserve to be part of our country. And this belief is what why this behavior fits within the sectarian definition.

Sectarian Violence Definition

Here are conflicting terms surrounding the violence happening overseas. We hear Civil War and sectarian violence or sectarian war tossed around with no real understanding of what either means. In Civil War violence, this is on-going and systematic, oftentimes organized and widespread. Sectarian violence in Iraq is the specific conflict of religion and ethnicity, resulting in the deaths and extreme violence. The Sunni and Shia conflict is a prime example of adhering to the beliefs and doing whatever is necessary to force others into the same beliefs. This conflict stems from who should have succeeded Muhammad. These conflicts are often the same as the conflicts between the Protestant religion and the Catholic religion. The Protestants are not part of the belief that there is a Papal Authority to answer to. Although there are many similarities between the two, there is always conflict about the beliefs. The tension between the two religions often led to mob violence.

The United States is often accused of sectarian violence when we take part in the attempted resolution between two factions overseas. It is argued that when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, this fueled the sectarian tensions already on the rise. This made the lines of differences even deeper between the opposing parties.

How can our beliefs be turned into our children’s beliefs, their actions and treatment of others? Children learn what they see and what they are taught. When we each have our own meaning to what is right for life, these conflicts with others’ beliefs, resulting in the sectarian violence, not only across the seas, but also on our own home turf. Our children learn from us, that only certain religions are right or that one must be a certain class as far as money, or they must live in a certain area to be considered as good as we are. We have instances of youth committing murder because of differences in opinion, or to have certain belongings, such as expensive shoes.

This shows us that sectarian behavior is not just a problem of other countries, but ours as well. There have been many forms and instances of sectarian behavior in the history of the United States. The times of slavery, the still present, but not as dominating group of the Ku Klux Klan, the religious battles that have taken place, the treatment towards all Muslims, rather than the select few. We also must include the way we treat and react to others that do not have the same financial standing, the ones who live “on the wrong side of the tracks”, and the ones who do not believe in our religion. Schools and playgrounds are rife with children who have sectarian beliefs without realizing it.

Define Non-Sectarian

Most schools in our country are non-sectarian. This means that there is no prayer, and no religious teaching of any form. This would include the teaching of evolution. The schools are only allowed to teach the idea of a scientific belief in how the world was created. Catholic religions do have their own elementary schools, and some continue through graduation level. This method of teaching our children creates its own conflicts and sectarian beliefs. Could this be one reason that we have created our own sectarian tensions?

Does the teaching of evolution create a sectarian conflict on the playgrounds or streets of our communities? Some may believe so, others will hold staunch to the belief that when children are raised to understand the difference between school curriculums and religious standards and beliefs, there is no tension. Others argue that this causes huge conflict in our youth, they become confused and fight for what they believe in, what they have been taught by the adults in their lives.

Other instances such as slavery and the Ku Klux Klan still create and derive conflict. Not all are capable of understanding that all men and women are equal. That all ethnicities are equal and the same, that color does not make the person. When we raise our children with certain beliefs and understanding of the social ladder of life, they continue this into their adulthood. Our personal religions, our ethnicity, our financial standings, or a person’s physical impairments can all lead to a sectarian violence or conflict.

Sectarian violence is often preceded by harassment. Harassment is bullying, plain and simple. Reasons given for harassment can include any or all of the following:

-Sexual Discrimination

-Racial Discrimination

-Religious Discrimination

-Physical Discrimination

-Age Discrimination

Any of these are also sectarian discrimination and lead to unnecessary violence. The United States and most other countries have enacted laws prohibiting these forms of sectarian harassment. There is nothing that we, as parents and adults can do to squash the behavior of a sectarian bully’s behaviors overnight. This form of teaching takes time; we must teach ways to combat this. Many schools have enacted anti-bully campaigns where the students sign an agreement to not participate in this form, or any form of harassment. The students participate in anti-bullying campaigns, programs and learn ways to end the bullying. They are taught to stand up with others and help their peers deal with the un-wanted harassment. We need to continually teach our children that most people have different beliefs, and religions. One idea is to teach our youth that if everyone believed the same ideas, the same beliefs that the world would be a boring place. There needs to be variety, differences and difficulties for each person to understand and learn from.

Teaching our youth to not bully, to not make judgments and start conflict because of religious differences in belief, or because a person looks different then they do, or that they live in a poorer neighborhood does not make them any different than they are. We need to teach our children the power of empathy, the power of understanding and also the power of compassion.

When we challenge the idea of sectarianism in regards to religion and ethnicity, we teach our youth about equality and fairness in life and in education. Equal opportunities should be in all aspects of education and life, and also in religion. Schools have developed many strategies to combat the religious prejudices and sectarianism that has become prevalent in our areas.

-Utilize community involvement

-Parental interaction

-Anti-bullying campaigns


-Human Rights education

Our Educational systems can provide learning in regards to equality and fairness by ensuring that communities promote respect and tolerance, and understanding and ridding our societies of prejudice, discrimination and any form of harassment. They can ensure equal rights to all, with no basis on sex, ethnicity or physical ability, age or gender. We can teach our youth to celebrate our differences in religions, social standing and our beliefs.

Although our education system does prohibit any act of bullying or sectarian behavior, there are times that this is not caught by the adults in charge, or not reported to the authorities of the school. What can be done to prevent these instances is to teach our youth and re-iterate with all adults that the behavior is not accepted, that there are consequences. We need to let all people know that reporting the unnecessary harassment is mandatory to ending the sectarian behavior running rough-shod over our society. The general consensus is that education is the key to overcoming sectarianism. It starts in schools and bleeds into socialization among our youth. Teaching one generation will lead into them teaching the next generation and ending the sectarian violence and harassment in this way.

The parents in our society need to make the effort to change their children’s behavior and stop assuming that they will outgrow it. When a child or youth is allowed to continue for even one time, the sectarian behavior, they begin to believe that it will be accepted by all. Refusing to allow our children to harass any other person, young or old, or those with different skin tones than theirs, is inappropriate behavior. Allowing youth to persecute others due to religious beliefs, financial status or even the clothes they wear, is not acceptable behavior in society. Empathy begins at home; it is the strong foundation of an acceptable society. We must all learn that circumstances happen to people and tomorrow it could be us. We must acknowledge that there is variety in religious beliefs and teach our children to understand that those who believe different than they do are not wrong, it is their upbringing, it is what they were taught, their religion. There must be understanding that all people are different and are entitled to their beliefs. Most importantly, is teaching and leading by example. Adults must remember that children learn by seeing, by imitating. We teach our children right from wrong with our words and our actions. What they see is what they believe is right.

No child or adult should be subjected to sectarian violence or harassment. Lead by example, explain why it is wrong for your child to say something negative about others, why it is wrong to persecute others for their beliefs and lead them to understand that it could be them being harassed. Ask them how it would feel if they were the one being harassed, being picked on or bullied because of what they believe. Let them know that society does not accept that behavior and that there are laws against such behavior and activity.

Our religious beliefs, personal beliefs about ethnicity or ideas about sexual discrimination start and stop at home. All parents want their children to be the best they can be, this includes teaching acceptance of others no matter what they believe. Children of all ages look up to and respect the decisions made by their parents, so what we teach them and how we treat others, along with the strong educational emphasis about ending sectarian behaviors and bullying will stick with them all their lives, not just for the short interim.

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