U Thant House, Unicef to Bring Late Diplomat’s Message of Tolerance to Young People

By Lwin Mar Htun 28 January 2019

The U Thant House museum on Sunday announced that it would work with Unicef on educational activities aimed at promoting peace in Myanmar as part of this year’s commemoration of the 110th anniversary of the birth of the late diplomat and UN secretary general.

Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore and U Thant House chairman Dr. Thant Myint-U announced that they will focus on educating youth and developing a program to help visiting children and young people learn about the issues most important to U Thant, including peace and tolerance, sustainable development and environmental protection.

“U Thant believed strongly in peace, education, tolerance, and an end to all forms of discrimination. He believed strongly in what he called ‘individual human dignity’. I hope his ideas might help us in thinking about Myanmar’s future in fresh and creative ways,” said Dr. Thant Myint-U, who is a grandson of U Thant.

He added, “We’re very excited about working together with Unicef. Our education program is already attracting lots of students and teachers and I’m sure we’ll be able to do much more with Unicef’s support.”

Funded by the government of Sweden, the education program at U Thant House already serves more than 1,300 students.

Dr. Thant Myint-U said he wanted youth to learn more about U Thant’s projects; specifically, what kind of projects he was involved in, as well as the history behind them and their purpose.

“I think U Thant would be happy about this education program too,” he said.

Discussing the vision of U Thant House, Sofia Busch, the museum’s executive director, said, “Work is underway to improve U Thant House as a place for learning—not only about U Thant, but also about the issues he worked for that are still relevant today. New elements will be added to the exhibition, inviting more active engagement by visitors.”

Currently, many of the students who visit the museum are from international schools, but administrators plan to bring in more students from government schools.

“When we educate the students, we will [include] educational games, an activity booklet, ‘Passport to One World’, and some quizzes…to attract them and to create a fun learning [atmosphere],” Busch added.

As part of the celebration, Fore delivered the fourth annual U Thant Memorial Lecture at U Thant House in Yangon.

In her lecture, “Building a Peaceful Future by Investing in Children and Young People”, she emphasized that, “We must work with governments and those who can influence them, and call on them to replace the arsenals of conflict with U Thant’s defenses of peace.”

She encouraged the government and businesses alike to invest in education for all children in all states and regions.

“There is no better pathway to peace than … supporting young people to shape better futures for themselves, no matter who they are or what they’ve endured,” she said.

U Thant House also plans to collaborate with local artists to make installations that can help visualize global challenges in a concrete and engaging way.

On Jan. 27, the museum began exhibiting for visitors some of its collection of U Thant’s personal belongings, such as his hat, notebook, passport and so on.

“That was all collected by my mother, and we have more items but left them in New York. We would like to bring more things, but U Thant House doesn’t have a lot of space,” Dr. Thant Myint-U said.

Busch added that, “To honor U Thant’s work for the environment, we also plan to transform the garden into an experiential learning landscape about Myanmar’s biodiversity and environmental challenges.

“People admire U Thant as peacemaker, environmentalist, intellectual, thinker. The message that we want to send is everyone can be like U Thant,” she said.

U Thant was born on Jan. 22, 1909. His former residence at 31 Panwa Lane in Yangon is today a museum and discussion center. Run by the U Thant House Trust since 2014, it was established as a non-government organization to continue to work in U Thant’s spirit. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.