New Project for Young Adults Focuses on Social Change
Kids4Peace is excited to announce the Dialogue to Action Initiative, a new project in Jerusalem designed to engage young adults (age 18-25) in activism for social change.
“After 13 years of interfaith youth programming, Kids4Peace is ready to take the next step,” Executive Director Fr. Josh Thomas said. “Our community is demanding more from us.”
“The years after high school are the most challenging ones, as youth move into military service, university and employment. It is our responsibility to stand with them, to face these challenges, and find together the path of peace.”
Dr. Yakir Englander, former director of Kids4Peace in Jerusalem, has been appointed as Project Director for the 2015-2016 pilot year. Englander is completing three years in the USA as Fulbright Scholar and visiting instructor at Northwestern and Harvard Universities.
“It’s time now to bring the voice of Kids4Peace back into our communities,” Englander said. “To develop deep relationships with people on both sides of Jerusalem, so we can bring a change – not only in small ways, but in ways that echo through the broader society.”
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Kids4Peace began in 2002, amid the worst violence of the Second Intifada. In the face of conflict and against all odds, twelve Jerusalem families – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – came together. Over the last 13 years, Kids4Peace has built a strong interfaith community that stretches across Jerusalem and neighboring West Bank cities. Even during last summer’s fighting in Gaza, the Kids4Peace community held together, through prayer and honest conversation.
In the face of escalating violence and widespread fear, Kids4Peace remains a sign of hope.
Our signature program, Pathways to Peace, is a six-year year-round continuum of learning for youth age 12-18. Through summer camps, after-school activities, and community projects, Palestinian and Israeli youth meet to explore religion, culture, identity and leadership.
With a foundation of respect and trust, our oldest alumni are asking a new question: How do we move from Dialogue to Action?
- How can a community of Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem work together to change the reality on the ground?
- What are the obstacles to peace? And where can we make a difference?
- What are the unique challenges and opportunities for an interfaith organization, where religion is at the center?
These young adults are demanding something more. They are committed to the difficult and courageous work ahead, and they are asking for skills, community, mentorship, and the leadership of people from within their societies who have walked this path of nonviolence change.
In response, Kids4Peace is launching Dialogue to Action – a new initiative for young adults (18-25). The project will be rooted in a heritage of faith-based activism and nonviolent social change, drawing on the wisdom of spiritual teachers and the passions of young adults themselves.
Dialogue to Action will provide training, guidance, mentorship and support to a community of young peace activists, as they develop their own strategies for change.
The years from age 18-25 are complex ones. Most Israeli Jews begin military service and most Palestinians begin university studies. In both contexts, youth are under enormous pressure to support their own “side” – often against the interests of the other. How do peacemakers navigate these realities? What supports to do they need, in order to be agents of change?
Kids4Peace received a research grant from the US Institute of Peace to study the challenges which young adults face, as they make this transition. The results of this research will inform the design of the Dialogue to Action project in its pilot year, with three components:
- Young Adult Programs: Design and implement strategies to engage at least 24 Kids4Peace alumni and other peers, which will include (a) training in nonviolent action and (b) coaching to design social action projects that respond the most urgent realities of Jerusalem (such as the rise in racist attitudes, dynamics at the checkpoints, or anti-normalization campaigns). Throughout the process, facilitators will lead conversations about the personal and societal costs they are facing as peace activists and will offer practical and spiritual resources to support the participants.
- Public Scholarship: Create a body of writing and teaching on the themes of interfaith
peace activism, nonviolence and faith-based social change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through blogging, lectures in faith communities, and public events, Kids4Peace will bring religion into the forefront of conversations about peace and provide the theoretical and theological context for the Young Adult Programs.
- Community Engagement: Develop relationships with key political, religious and civil society leaders. Host town hall meetings and other forums, in which young adults can challenge their leaders and advocate for change.
At the end of this pilot year, Kids4Peace will have created a platform for Israeli and Palestinian young adults to effectively work for nonviolent social change – both in joint projects, and within their own communities.
Dr. Yakir Englander
Kids4Peace is pleased to appoint Dr. Yakir Englander as the Project Director. Yakir served as Director of Kids4Peace in Jerusalem during its formative years and is a respected scholar, activist and public intellectual. He earned a PhD from Hebrew University and taught as a Fulbright Scholar at Northwestern University and as a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School.
His recent writings in IslamiCommentary and the Huffington Post touch the sensitive human dimensions of the conflict, while charting a courageous and passionate course for action. As Project Director, Yakir will give vision and direction to the program, speak and write for the public, and directly coach the young adult participants, in partnership with Palestinian colleagues. He will engage consultants to offer trainings in nonviolence and forge partnerships necessary for effective social action. In addition to his work in Jerusalem, Yakir will engage key stakeholders in the USA, including clergy, congregations, political leaders and religious movements.