Last week, eight members of the Kids4Peace staff and youth had the unique opportunity to meet influential leaders at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.The youth in attendance were three ninth grade Leadership youth: Omar, Jessica, and Mira. We met and spoke with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Brendan Carr, The Most Reverend Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, and The Most Reverend Suheil Dawani, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and one of the founders of Kids4Peace in 2002.
All three said how much they admired the work Kids4Peace is engaged in, and expressed their gratitude and hope for our youth. The Lord Mayor asked about what it is like to be in a group with Israelis and Palestinians together from such a young age, growing up together. He wondered what the challenges and the opportunities are.
“When you’re in Kids4Peace, it is empowering to see Israeli and Palestinian youth together. We find the will to bring solutions to whatever is happening here,” Omar began, “There’s plenty of opposition to what we do. You’ll always receive criticism. My Jewish friends receive criticism from their Israeli friends and we receive it from our friends, from those who think what we are doing is not a good idea. But you know – every single leader who sparked a change had a lot of opposition, people might not have agreed with what they said or did. But you need the strength to be able to stand against that. To do your share in the political situation. Kids4Peace helps give us that strength.”
Mira watched intently as Omar spoke, nodding her head in agreement. Once he was finished speaking, she chimed in. “Yes, it’s very hard at first. The situation we live in is not easy. Interacting with another side, another person, is not so easy. And it’s not so easy to explain it to friends. It takes a lot of effort to convince them that this is a good thing. But we aim for peace, and Kids4Peace proves to us that peace is possible.”
“It was really amazing when we started, when we were 12 years old. We were Christians and Muslims on one side of the room, Jews on the other. It was hard to say hello. But now, four years later, we do so many things together in the city and we’re just one family, together,” Jessica said. The Lord Mayor said noticed that even among the staff when the Kids4Peace delegation came to visit in the fall. He said how moved and inspired he was to meet a group like us, that more people need to know about what we are doing. He looked at two of the advisors, Ibraheem and Ahlam, and asked them what they think makes Kids4Peace so special. Ibraheem smiled, having grown up in this youth movement and continuing as a counselor and advisor into his twenties, his answer was seamless and to the point: “What makes Kids4Peace special is that we are all in this together, standing tall together, in the middle of this chaos, empowering each other.”
Ahlam spoke of how Kids4Peace has been growing and shifting. “This year, more than ever before, we feel like a big community and family. We focus on Jerusalem, on our connection to this place and to each other. We have more families joining, and are focusing on the big goal of Kids4Peace.”
Strength in numbers is not just a Golden State Warriors tagline, but a truth for us here in Jerusalem at Kids4Peace. We are growing, we are strong, we are committed to one another and to our mission of creating a more peaceful and inclusive Jerusalem.
Thank you to the Lord Mayor and Archbishops for taking the time to meet with us.