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Defusing a Tense Situation

In 1992, CMS was credited with playing a crucial role in staving off religious violence in Lucknow after Hindu extremists destroyed the nearly five-hundred-year-old mosque in nearby Ayodhya, sparking ethnic fighting that claimed an estimated two thousand lives. With 40 percent of the population being Muslim, Lucknow braced itself for violence. The risk of Hindu-Muslim fighting was heightened by the fact that only a skeletal police presence remained in the city, with most of the police force being sent to Ayodhya to deal with the violence there. The students of CMS tried to prevent further violence. They rode through the streets of Lucknow on a Jeep equipped with loudspeakers, playing unity songs and leading a procession of thousands of children and parents carrying banners with slogans such as: "We Should Live in Unity"; "The Name of God Is Both Muslim and Hindu"; "God Is One, Mankind Is One"; "All Religions Are One."

The governor saw this as an opportunity to control the violence and animosity. He asked the City Montessori School to provide a meeting place for the heads of all the city's religions. CMS organized daily meetings that were attended by the religious leaders, who regularly called and prayed together for communal harmony. Each evening, these leaders returned to their own communities and worked to maintain calm. While violence flared nearby, Lucknow remained peaceful.

It has been speculated that the success in avoiding violence could, at least in part, be attributed to "the structural change" within the city that CMS has brought about over the past forty-plus years (European Centre for Conflict Prevention 1999).

Over 250,000 children have passed through CMS since it first opened its doors in 1959, the vast majority of which have come from Lucknow. Given that CMS encourages the family to participate in their children's development at the school (from helping shape the curriculum to a myriad of other pioneering activities) there can be little doubt that a great many families in Lucknow actively participated in the CMS peace initiative.(Mathews 2001: 25).