Kids4Peace was launched in 2001, in response to concerns about the future of children in Israel and Palestine, especially in light of escalating tensions between the two peoples in the Holy Land following the collapse of the Oslo Peace Initiative.
The cradle of Kids4Peace was the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, which continues to foster K4P programs in cooperation with other faith communities. With a focus on “education for peace,” the program included meetings between Israeli and Palestinian families from both sides of the cultural and political divide
Children aged 11-12, from Jewish, Christian and Muslim families, were introduced to each other, engaged in fun and artistic activities, and traveled together to the United States in 2002 to be hosted by Camp Allen near Houston, Texas for an exciting summer camp experience. Upon returning home, the same children participated in follow-up meetings with an educational, cross cultural and interfaith focus.
In 2003, a second Kids4Peace group was hosted by three Episcopal churches of the Diocese of Atlanta, Georgia, for a summer camp experience at Camp Mikell in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia. This time, American children were included, and the concept of “Peace Pals” was born. The American, Palestinian and Israeli children all went through a series of orientation meetings in the spring in which they learned about the culture and faith traditions of their Peace Pals. They engaged in e-mail and video exchanges to get to know each other. When summer finally arrived, they gathered in the North Georgia mountains for a wonderful week of play, work, prayer, and just good old summer camp fun. The kids grew close as the walls of fear and separation began to fall and they began to realize that the “other” was not that different from them. After camp, they spent an additional week in Atlanta, where they attended services at a synagogue, church and mosque. They visited local museums, were hosted in homes for swimming and cookouts, shopped at Target, slept in a church parish hall on Red Cross cots and continued to strengthen the friendships that come so naturally for kids.
A similar program was launched in 2004 with kids from the Galilee and a host group in Toronto, Canada. Interest continued to grow in the United States. New chapters formed in Vermont in 2007 and North Carolina in 2008. Kids4Peace Boston launched its first camp in 2011, a Leadership Camp for older youth piloted in 2011, and Kids4Peace Houston relaunched in 2012. In 2013, Kids4Peace Vermont initiated a staff growth and development camp, to provide an opportunity for learning and dialogue to our most dedicated educators.
Kids4Peace programs often have transformative effects on the participants, even as obstacles to being peacemakers can increase as they grow up. As a result, Continuation programs began to flourish on both sides of the ocean. Kids wanted to stay in touch with their new friends, continue their learning, and share the message of peace.
In Jerusalem, Kids4Peace alums gather for social outings, service projects and dialogue. In the United States Kids4Peace Alums have presentations at schools, churches, synagogues and mosques. They’ve had overnight gatherings and discussion groups. They presented workshops at the Grand Opening of the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace and Reconciliation in New York City in 2007 and at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in 2008.
Kids4Peace USA was presented with the “Building Bridges Award” by the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta in 2008. In 2009, in response to the escalating violence in Gaza and Southern Israel, Kids4Peace chapters sponsored simultaneous Interfaith Prayer Services, “Kids Praying 4 Kids”, in Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont and Jerusalem.
True to their commitment to “faith in peace”, Kids4Peace children and staff demonstrate great courage in the midst of conflict – refusing to be enemies, choosing to be friends