A Message from the Executive Director
For the past 13 years, Kids4Peace has provided life-changing interfaith peace education programs for Israeli, Palestinian and American youth. More than 1,800 youth, parents and volunteers have participated in summer camps and year-round programs. In the face of conflict, we remain a strong community – inspiring hope – thanks to the dedication of so many.
Today, we face a new reality. The surge of violence in Jerusalem, longstanding injustices, a deteriorating political landscape, and the lack of negotiations bring a new mandate for peace organizations. It’s no longer enough to support a peace process; today, we must lead it.
That will require fresh vision, and an even more serious, focused and strategic approach. In the USA and across Europe, we see the rise of xenophobia, discrimination and hatred toward religious minorities. Solidarity among people of faith is now a matter of global urgency.
Two years ago, we adopted a new mission statement for Kids4Peace. The first part, to embody a culture of peace, has been our strength. The second, to empower a movement for change, is now our challenge. We have taken some first steps, with the launch of the new young adult pilot project in Jerusalem, called Dialogue to Action.
But our youth are asking tough questions now – and they ask them at a younger age. Through media, peer influence and personal experience, the hard issues of violence and conflict are already part of their lives by age 12 or 13.
It is no longer possible to create a community of friends outside of conflict. Instead, we are building this community in the midst of conflict. That community must be strong at the local, national and international levels.
In all our youth programs, we need to bring a new level of honesty, seriousness and skill.
This challenge comes with a great opportunity – to create a large and powerful interfaith youth movement, which can lead the way to peace, in Jerusalem and other divided societies around the world. To be successful, we will need to build a program that can grow to scale – to welcome the hundreds of families who come to us each year, and the thousands more who long for peace.
To accomplish this, we will make three major changes to our six-year Pathways to Peace youth program.
First, we will shift our signature International Summer Camp from sixth to seventh grade. This will offer youth one year in Kids4Peace at the local level, before adding the global component. Youth will forge interfaith friendships at the chapter level, with time to prepare for the unique opportunity to share their culture and learn from new friends. The new seventh grade International Camp will include deeper interfaith engagement and expanded sessions about self-expression, understanding conflict, and nonviolence.
Second, we will not recruit a new cohort of Jerusalem youth in 2016. Welcoming new families is the most challenging part of Kids4Peace’s work, and we need to take one year to invest in organizational infrastructure: curriculum planning, staff training, communications, fundraising, and impact evaluation. We will recruit both sixth and seventh grade youth in 2017, so current sixth-graders will still have the chance to join next year. American sixth-graders can join new interfaith Day Camps and other programs in their local chapters.
Third, we will launch a new, signature program: the K4P Global Institute for 9th grade youth. The 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.
Kids4Peace remains an interfaith youth movement. We are committed to fostering trust, understanding and friendships among youth of different religions and cultures. But now, in addition to a focus on friendships, Kids4Peace will emphasize 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.
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.
Thank you for your courage and commitment –
Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director
New Summer Program Sequence – Beginning 2017
|Grade||Jerusalem||North America||Program Focus|
|6th||Local Programs||Interfaith Day Camps
in Chapter, or other local programs
|Interfaith learning, friendship & Community|
For Jerusalem and American youth, in USA
Launches in new format in 2017, Location(s) TBD
|Cultural exchange, understanding conflict, dialogue|
|8th||National Camp||National Camp
For youth from all chapters
|History, identity, justice, and religious sources of peace|
For Jerusalem and American youth, in Washington, DC
|Faith-based social change, advocacy and public leadership|
|10th||Specialized programs based on interests of youth:
politics & diplomacy, human rights, arts & culture, education
|Practice skills. Explore vocation.|
Chapters will continue year-round programs for youth and families, including after-school programs, overnight retreats, public events and community service projects.
Transitional Year – 2016
|6th||No Programs in 2016
Current sixth-graders can join next year.
|Interfaith Day Camps
in several chapters
|Information will be posted January 1|
For Jerusalem and American youth, in Washington, DC
followed by homestays in local chapters
|10th||No Programs in 2016|