What Kids4Peace can Teach Us About Peace (Tikkun)

Eve

“I have joined the Kids4Peace movement because I feel that their mission is a crucial one,” Eve insisted. “I would like to be a part of it. But I can’t do it on my own. 

Kids4Peace Board Member Sue Bloch writes about Eve from Kids4Peace Seattle at Tikkun Daily

“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.

It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.

Read the full story on Tikkun Daily

The kids are right to be concerned. My own generation has certainly not done a great job. In my twenties, I too had wanted to change the world. Filled with purpose I moved to Israel after the Six Day War, when as young parents, we had been so hopeful of peaceful co-existence with our neighbors. Instead, since then we have wobbled from crisis to crisis. Smoldering tanks in the Sinai desert filled TV screens during the Yom Kippur War in ’73. UN camps settled on the Golan Heights to make sure all parties observed the peace treaty with Syria. Gaza became a tinderbox. Scud missiles were shot down during the Gulf War only seconds before they would have hit Tel Aviv.

Now I wonder can the youth of today do things differently in the future? Can they stop the intifadas, the suicide bombers and periodic destruction on the West Bank? Will the intrusive yet crucial security inspections at the border crossings ever become a thing of the past?

As a grandmother, I wanted to try to do something to help our grandchildren build a better future. When I learned about Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, I decided to invest some of my time and energy to support their vision: a passion to develop the next generation of peacemakers. I read about their summer programs where Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. kids spend two weeks together at camps scattered around North America and Israel, learning about their different faiths, traditions, and cultures. They play soccer, skip rope, and sing together. They learn how to listen and try to understand other kids rather than judge them.

Read the full story on Tikkun Daily

 

Filed under: Seattle

‘Kids 4 Peace’ brings Muslims, Jews and Christians to Camp Allen

By Luke Blount | July 23, 2012

[Diocese of Texas] Over the past decade, countless conventions, meetings and summits have been held in search of a long-lasting peace between faith communities in Israel and Palestine, but for the children who take part in Kids 4 Peace, the solution seems simple because they experience it every day.

Kids 4 Peace is a interfaith program developed through the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem andSt. George’s College in Jerusalem that brings together Christian, Jewish and Muslim children from the Holy Land and the United States to take part in summer camps. The first camp took place in 2002 at Camp Allen, and 10 years later, Kids 4 Peace returned to the Diocese of Texas to inaugurate an annual gathering for interfaith education.

Typically, 12 children, four of each faith, come together from Jerusalem along with 12 from the United States. They live, play, work and worship together for two weeks while exploring their similarities and differences. Currently, Kids 4 Peace has five two-week summer camps across the United States.

“Ten years ago we had this dream of a summer camp where children would have the chance to meet each other face-to-face, cross the lines of conflict, learn about each other’s lives and religions and lay the groundwork for a better future,” said the Rev. Josh Thomas, executive director.

Children from the Holy Land and the United States work together to conquer the ropes course at Camp Allen during “Kids 4 Peace” interfaith camp. Photo/Diocese of Texas

Looking at the group at Camp Allen in July, it was hard to tell which kids came from which country or religion. They liked the same games, wore the same clothes and spoke at least some English. During dinner one evening, they all sang along to a pop song from the British/Irish band, One Direction, belting out the signature line “You don’t know you’re beautiful” in unison.

“We are all friends,” said 12-year-old Eliya, a Jew from Jerusalem. “Jews, Christians, Muslims. That’s how it is supposed to be, so it’s good.”

The children spent the week observing the practices of other faiths including Jewish Shabbat prayers, Muslim prayers and an Episcopal Eucharist. After each service, they asked and answered questions to learn more about the three faiths.

Building friendships and seeking common ground came easily for the Kids 4 Peace throughout the week. They conquered physical challenges as well as emotional ones. One of the first activities they participated in together was Camp Allen’s challenge course and giant swing. The children had to work together, encourage and help each other to climb obstacles and ride a zip line more than 50 yards.

Kids 4 Peace campers engage in discussion with an adult leader. Photo/Diocese of Texas

“It’s fun because I’m not thinking, ‘They are not from my religion,’” said Eyal, another 12-year-old Jew from Jerusalem. “I don’t think like that.

Crossing cultural barriers is the central theme of the Kids 4 Peace camp, and Thomas sees a uniting principle that all three faiths can rally around.

“Kids 4 Peace’s bottom line message is that all the children of Abraham can live together in peace,” Thomas said. “Peace and being a peacemaker is a priority and an imperative of each religious tradition on its own as well as something that is strengthened by our time together.”

Throughout the week, the children displayed endless curiosity and love for each other. If one of them upset another, they were quick to forgive and forget. If another needed encouragement, they would gather together to cheer each other on. The ease with which they achieved a common understanding and the joy they expressed at every moment of the day leads one to wonder if these children could teach adults.

“Adults could learn that maybe not everyone from a certain place or group is bad,” said 12-year-old Serifat, a Muslim from Houston. “We are just like everybody else.”

“A lot of adults are not nice,” Eliya said. “I would just tell them not to behave like that because it’s not nice, and if we keep doing that, the world will never have peace.”

“If you are fighting because of different religions, it’s not a good example for anything,” Eyal said. “It’s just not the right thing to do.”

The simplicity of their message may seem trite when compared with the complexity of the conflict in Israel and Palestine, but perhaps they are on to something.

“I often say the Kids 4 Peace is the closest thing I have experienced to a glimpse at the reign of God,” Thomas said. “The ease at which they come together and form relationships is so natural that it offers a glimpse into human possibility of what we are here on this earth for. It feels as if they have been waiting their whole lives for this chance to be together.”

Thomas thinks that peacefulness is the natural state of these children, and if they can harness it at a young age, they can carry it into adulthood with a deeper understanding of what it means to be different, yet so similar. Kids 4 Peace conducts a continuation program in Jerusalem for 13- to 14-year-olds as well as a new leadership program for older teenagers to learn peace building skills as they transition to adulthood.

“It is possible to love your enemies,” Thomas said. “It really is possible to cross beyond those things that divide people and learn about one another. We can value each other’s dignity and worth while respecting differences.”

Visit the Kids 4 Peace website to learn more about the camps.

— Luke Blount is a staff writer and communications specialist for the Diocese of Texas.

Peace Builders: “We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream”

“We in Kids4Peace believe, that here in Jerusalem, in a country everyone fights over, a city that seems sometimes to be an obstacle to peace, that here we have the ability to do things differently. We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream.” – Yakir Englander, Director of Kids4Peace Jerusalem

Interfaith youth program demonstrates a culture of peace

From the spring issue of Pathways, the journal of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

BUILDING A NEW CULTURE OF PEACE

Nitzan came to Kids4Peace when she was 12. Her father, an Israeli bus driver, was injured when a suicide bomb exploded on his bus in Jerusalem. He brought Nitzan to Kids4Peace because he didn’t want her to grow up to hate Palestinians. For the last five years, Nitzan has been part of our community of young peacebuilders—Jews, Christians and Muslims—who are learning to trust one another, forge friendships across the lines of conflict, and work together for a better future.

“Peace is possible,” Nitzan believes, “but it is very hard to get it.” After coming to a Kids4Peace camp in North Carolina and then attending three years of follow-up programs in Jerusalem, Nitzan saw the fruits of her involvement at the first-ever Kids4Peace Leadership Camp for older teens that she attended last summer in Vermont. “We worked on it a long time, and now we are listening and saying what is in our hearts,” she says.

Founded in Jerusalem in 2002, Kids4Peace is a global youth movement, committed to developing a community of interfaith leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and relationships to build— together—a new culture of peace. In the past 10 years, nearly 700 Jewish, Christian and Muslim children from Jerusalem and the United States have attended Kids4Peace summer camps, hosted by local chapters of Kids4Peace in Atlanta, Boston, North Carolina, Vermont and Houston.

At each Kids4Peace camp, 12 children from Jerusalem (Jews, Christians and Muslims, all about age 12) travel to the United States and join 12 American “peace pals” for a two-week peace education experience.

CAMP MIKELL HOSTS KIDS4PEACE

Kids4Peace Atlanta is blessed to hold its programs at Camp Mikell, the Diocese of Atlanta’s camp and conference center, during its junior camp session. The unconditional love and warm welcome of Mikell staff and counselors create the safe place for children of different religions and cultures to become friends.

In the mornings, while Camp Mikell is having its Christian education programs, Kids4Peace meets separately for interfaith education activities and team- building challenges. After lunch, Kids4Peace joins the rest of Camp Mikell for canteen, swimming, sports, art, and evening programs. They even bring some Israeli and Arab music to share at the evening dances.

“The program works because it invokes “a blessed formula,” said the Rev. Wendy Porter Cade, director of the Kids4Peace Atlanta camp and middle school chaplain at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. “Interfaith kids from the Middle East who have no business being friends, plus American kids who don’t know anything outside of themselves, plus adults who believe that peace is possible, plus the crazy dream that religion can be the thing that unites us and not divide us … it’s working.”

Read the full article online here 

 

 

Moving toward a ‘culture of peace,’ one child at a time

Interfaith camps offer fun, peacemaking for Jerusalem, U.S. youth

[Episcopal News Service] Climbing Stone Mountain in the Georgia humidity and triple-digit heat was one of the hardest things 11-year-old Miller had ever done — but he managed just fine, with a little help from his newfound friends.

There were nearly two dozen of them, in fact; 11- to 13-year-old Muslims, Jews and Christians, from Jerusalem and the United States, who learned about each other’s faith traditions and lives during a recent two-week Kids4Peace summer camp experience in Atlanta.

“I really thought a lot about peace in the world, and about violence,” after scaling the rocky summit, added Miller, who resides in Powder Springs, Georgia. “Because when we were on top of Stone Mountain, looking out into the world, everything was okay. Nothing was wrong.”

Which was partly why Kids4Peace was founded in 2002 through the efforts of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and collaborative U.S. partners, according to the Rev. Josh Thomas, executive director of Kids4Peace USA, during a July 17 telephone interview.

About 450 kids have participated in the program in the nine years since the first session, at Camp Allen in the Diocese of Texas. This year, the agency organized summer peace camps for a total of 48 Jerusalem youth. Groups of 12 Jerusalem youth — four each Muslim, Christian and Jewish — are sent to a campsite, either in Atlanta, North Carolina, Boston or Vermont.

While in the United States, the 12 visitors, whose last names are withheld to protect their safety, enjoy camp activities and educational experiences with equal numbers of their American counterparts. This year, 150 Jerusalem youth applied for the 48 spaces, Thomas said.

There is also a continuation program offered for 13- to 14-year-olds after the initial camp experience, which includes educational activities, dialogue and community service to help nurture a culture of peace, Thomas added.

New this year is a leadership camp, held in Brattleboro, Vermont, about 150 miles south of Burlington, to teach additional peacemaking skills to 14 to 16 year olds who’ve been through the initial camp experience, he said. Eleven youth, including eight from Jerusalem, are participating in the camp, which officially got underway July 18.

Sasha, 15, a Palestinian Christian, said she hoped the leadership program would equip her “to go back home with a lot of knowledge. I hope I can get many points of view, not only my point of view. I don’t want to listen to the same point of view as mine. And I want to have fun.”

Despite loving her initial camp experience, she found returning home changed things. “I really like the Jewish kids, but when I went back home, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to be close to them,” she said.

“In the camp we all feel equal because we’re in America and there’s no checkpoints … (but) I have a lot of friends who live behind the checkpoints and the walls, and I can’t see them. It’s been two years and I haven’t seen my best friend in Ramallah.”

Hassan, 16, is Muslim and lives in a predominantly Jewish area of Jerusalem. He hopes “that each one of us can go back home with a new experience and new knowledge and be confident in himself and be able to change the area where he lives. That if he doesn’t like it, he’ll have the courage to go and try to change it.”

Peace, for him, would be “for everybody to walk in the streets wherever they want without any limits, without being controlled or stopped or looked at in a bad way or cursed at. That’s what I think peace would be like.”

The program is hoping to expand U.S. campsite sponsors next year, Thomas said. It costs about $65,000 to host a camp, most of which is spent on airfare.

“This is a grassroots organization that relies on the kids and families as the source of this movement,” Thomas said in a telephone interview from Vermont. “We’re trying to think of it less as a program and more as a movement towards lasting peace in the Holy Land and beyond.”

In Atlanta near the end of her two-week camp, Noa, a 12-year-old Jewish girl from Jerusalem, said July 15 that the experience had taught her a great deal about herself, as well as others.

“I learned about other religions, very interesting things, but most of the things that I learned were about myself, that I can spend two weeks without my parents,” she said. “And I learned that Arab kids are not bad people. Jewish kids are not bad people, and we lose a friend if we think they are bad.”

Fares, 11, a Christian from Jerusalem said “making peace is important, because without peace it’s only violence and it’s like hate for everybody. My hope is that all the world can live in peace … and that I can be a leader in Kids4Peace.”

And for Miller, 11, of Powder Springs, who got involved with Kids4Peace “because it’s not every day you can meet kids from Jerusalem,” there were lots of surprises.

Among them, “they’re a lot like us. They wear the same clothes. They have MP3 players, computers, X-boxes. This has been a cool experience.”

The Rev. Wendy Porter Cade, co-director of Kids4Peace Atlanta, said the camp has worked because “middle-schoolers are magic, authentic … they absorb everything, miss nothing, hate phonies, crave harmony. Just as soon as they kick a hole in the wall or break down in a fit of tears, they will be leading a game of four square or holding a friend’s hand or spontaneously helping clean the kitchen.”

Cade, in her first year as director of the Atlanta program, has been involved in various with Kids4Peace since 2008. The programs works because it invokes “a blessed formula — interfaith kids from the Middle East who have no business being friends, plus American kids who don’t know anything outside of themselves, plus adults who believe that peace is possible, plus the crazy dream that religion can be the thing that unites us and not divide us … it’s working,” she said in an e-mail to ENS.

Noting that one of the many camp outings included a visit to the King Center for Social Change, she added: “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of the blessed community is really happening. It’s not as easy as black and white. It’s not overnight. It’s a movement. It’s rippling through the lives of 12-year-olds from Atlanta to Boston to Vermont to Jerusalem.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.