Kids4Peace News  submitted by Nancy Stone

My, oh, my, how things have changed with Kids4Peace!      Because Williston Federated Church has been so supportive of this organization, and I am entering my 8th year as

art teacher for the Vermont chapter, I shall try to summarize all the recent developments that, to be honest, have had our heads spinning in amazement!     When Kids4Peace first began, the intent was to give children respite from the violence in Palestine and Jerusalem by bringing them to a 10 day summer camp in the United States where they could feel safe and nurtured.  The kids were 10-12 years old of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths;  they and their chaperones were supported by U.S. kids and staff, also of the 3 faiths. It’s important to know that in the beginning, there was no thought that the friendships would continue after camp or even that the program would last more than a few years. Now, after 14 years, more than 1,800 youth, parents and volunteers have participated.There are 10 K4P chapters including those in the U.S., Jerusalem and Canada.  Four more are forming, including one in Lyon, France.  Kids gather not only in camps but in chapter year-round programs.  Our Vermont alumni campers have chatted on Skype with friends in Jerusalem and in the U.S. during our 2-3 annual retreats.  We staff members have also built deep friendships as we make plans on-line and meet at camp.

K4P now recognizes the need for a new vision because of a climate of violence, xenophobia and discrimination, both there and here.  Camp will still have plenty of fun, sports, art, music and friendship but with an added emphasis on faith-based social change.  We will equip youth to draw upon their religious traditions to promote interfaith cooperation, resist violence, contribute to the end of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and advance greater justice and peace across the world. Here are some recent dramatic changes: The Kids4Peace office has moved to Washington D.C. USAID awarded K4P $100,000 as an investment for the Jerusalem program to bring people together to share stories and work on issues of common concerns while promoting peaceful co-existence. Big news: For the first time, youth from U.S. chapters will have an opportunity to go to Jerusalem in 2017. Sixth graders in the U.S. will attend local chapter interfaith camps before adding the global aspect in future years.  (Jerusalem chapter 6th graders will also have their local camp.)  It would be so wonderful to have a youth from our church attend camp.  It’s very affordable at $150 this year and it’s in Burlington for only 4 days; kids go home at night. On Monday July 11th, we’ll meet at the Islamic Society of VT in Colchester;  Tuesday is at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue; Wednesday is at Cathedral Church of ST Paul; and Thursday is service learning and a community project. Go to www.k4p.org/chapters/Vermont for stories & photos from camp and the application form. Seventh graders will have an International Camp with kids from the Middle East: it will include deeper interfaith engagement and expanded sessions about self-expression, understanding conflict, dialogue and nonviolence…and lots of summer camp fun. Eighth graders will have a national camp with alumni coming from all U.S. chapters; the emphasis will be on Identity, justice, and religious sources of peace. Ninth graders will participate in a new, signature program: the K4P Global Institute begins with an eight-day intensive program in downtown Washington, DC, where participants will meet with political, religious and public policy organizations; interact with inspiring leaders and grassroots activists; and practice skills in political advocacy, religious leadership, grassroots organizing and media engagement.After their eight days in Washington, Jerusalem youth will accompany their American peers back home, for visits to local chapters.  Over the next weekend, youth will speak to religious and community groups, visit cultural sites, and share their stories with the media – as ambassadors of peace.  This will be a very special opportunity for US chapters to host our most passionate and articulate youth from Jerusalem, in order to begin new conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and interfaith cooperation in American society.  The focus is on faith-based social change, advocacy and public leadership. Tenth & eleventh graders will be able to attend the Leadership Camp outside of Brattleboro, VT.  The issues to be covered include politics, diplomacy, human rights, arts & culture and education.  These older teens will practice skills and explore vocations since they are ready to take more active roles in their communities. In conclusion, it has been, and is, an exciting journey of Hope with amazing kids and staff of the 3 Abrahamic faiths.  You can learn more about Kids4Peace, its international programs and blog postings from kids, parents and staff by going to www.k4p.org. Our Executive Director, Fr. Joshua Thomas explains: Kids4Peace remains an interfaith youth movement.  We are committed to fostering trust, understanding and friendships among youth of different religions and cultures. Our program changes are driven by a single goal: to prepare all our youth to be agents of change and influential leaders for peace. We are a grassroots movement. We believe that everyone has a part to play. And together, we will help to end the conflicts that tear our communities apart. Together, we will build a future of peace with justice for all the children of Jerusalem and the world we share.   This is our work ahead.Picture28

In conclusion, it has been, and is, an exciting journey of Hope with amazing kids and staff of the 3 Abrahamic faiths.  You can learn more about Kids4Peace, its international programs and blog postings from kids, parents and staff by going to www.k4p.org. Our Executive Director, Fr. Joshua Thomas explains: Kids4Peace remains an interfaith youth movement.  We are committed to fostering trust, understanding and friendships among youth of different religions and cultures. Our program changes are driven by a single goal: to prepare all our youth to be agents of change and  influential leaders for peace. We are a grassroots movement. We believe that everyone has a part to play. And together, we will help to end the conflicts that tear our communities apart. Together, we will build a future of peace with justice for all the children of Jerusalem and the world we share.   This is our work ahead

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