Archives For People

Contributors: Arbai (9th grade, Winooski, VT), Emma (7th grade, Andover, NH), Sherihan, (6th grade, Winooski, VT)

Water bottles were decorated and the ice was broken as the camp season was officially kicked off yesterday at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Staff members welcomed fourteen young campers as they entered into their first Kids4Peace camp experience. After name tags had been made and suitcases were unpacked, the staff introduced themselves, and the campers played some get-to-know-you games. Working up quite the appetite, all gathered in the dining hall for dinner. But of course, no meal is complete without a blessing led by a camper.

 

19437509_1349217565156574_413859909257907386_nThe newfound energy from dinner fueled the following discussion revolving the group’s values and expectations while at camp. As campers and staff voiced their hopes and ideals, a Community Agreement was composed that will serve as the group’s foundation while at camp. While the group’s expectations of each other are captured in the Community Agreement, each of the campers had their own pool of hopes and prospects for the next eleven days at Kids4Peace.

 

19554753_1349216735156657_6222761309396805353_n

Sherihan, 6th grade, VT

Arbai, a rising ninth grader from Winooski, Vermont, has high hopes to learn a great deal while at camp. She even aspires to pick up “more English”. The desire to learn is also felt by Sherihan, a rising sixth grader also from Winooski, Vermont, who wants to know “how other people practice their religions”. But sleep away camp with a group of strangers can be intimidating, for campers must “[be] away from family” (Arbai). Not to mention the first day jitters, as campers are “talking and laughing with people [they] don’t know yet” (Sherihan).

19554493_1349218241823173_1612218451267862643_n

Emma, 7th grade, NH

Emma, a rising seventh grader from Andover, New Hampshire, on the other hand is purely “really excited for everything”, hoping to “meet new friends”, “learn about religion”, and “know what it’s like” to be away from home overnight. Whether one is full of unbridled hope, consumed by worry, or anything in between, all campers got the opportunity to voice their hopes and fears and listen to others.

 

The day was closed, accepting all of these hopes and fears, expectations and worries. The campers, now a community, went to bed, marking a successful first day of camp.

 

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

On Sunday, May 8, Kids4Peace Seattle held its first joint activity with students at Noor Academy, the Sunday school of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. Over the course of three hours, our youth began the process of getting to know each other through a number of activities. There were icebreakers and teambuilding activities, such as having to navigate a human obstacle-course while blindfolded.

DSCF2456

Youth navigating the human obstacle-course

 

We also explored each of our three religions through a game of Interfaith Bingo. Holding a bingo card that contained images and words from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, youth needed to find out the significance of each item by asking other youth to share their knowledge.

DSCF2496

Working on Interfaith Bingo boards

 

Finally, we engaged in small-group dialogue on a variety of topics. In my group, there happened to be only Jewish and Muslim youth, and we had a fascinating discussion about what it’s like to be in the minority in our schools. Youth shared stories of needing to miss important rehearsals or sports games because of religious holidays. And while most of them enjoy the opportunity to share their religion with others, there was also shared frustration of situations in which people expect them to know everything about about Islam or Judaism.

Thank you to Noor Academy for hosting us for what we hope will be the beginning of many collaborations!

By Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

In Kids4Peace, we encourage our youth to be leaders, and one powerful way of exercising leadership is by speaking up for what you believe in. This is especially powerful when you speak up on behalf of another group. We called this being an upstander (as opposed to being a bystander when you see something bad happening).

This week, David, a participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, spoke up by writing a letter to the editor of his local newspaper. In recent weeks, David’s community has been the scene of an intense and, at times, ugly controversy about the building of a new mosque. Islamophobic sentiments, together with misinformation, have been spread very publicly, as documented by this article in the Seattle Globalist.

In response, David wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper, asking people to educate themselves and overcome their fears. Thank you, David, for being an upstander and speaking up for what’s right!

DSC_0236

David and other K4P Seattle youth, hard at work during a recent Kids4Peace Seattle service project at a local food bank.

Blog Post for Vermont/New Hampshire Chapter, by Nancy Stone. Photos by Nancy Stone

Our Spring over-night retreat took place April 16-17 at sisters Lola and Zelda’s spacious home in New Hampshire with 15 alumni and adults attending.  Our first activity was lessons in Arabic. Then, divided into two groups, we were told to create skits using only Arabic, adding new vocabulary as needed.  One teen remarked, “That wasn’t super hard!”  Someone else commented, “It felt good to be a little part of your culture.”  Shukran, Abeer and Lana.

The unusually warm evening found us walking through a covered bridge leading to a pizza place.  After supper on the deck beside the Contoocook River, we returned home for popcorn and the animated movie “Inside Out”, which is a fun but richly layered exploration of personality, memory and emotions. Our follow-up discussions asked: Which emotions do you feel most often?  What are your core memories?  Which emotions do you think our society values over others?  The adult staff participated by drawing a map of their own “islands of personality.”

After breakfast the next day, we lined up single-file for a silent meditation walk down the quiet street, with a focus on our breath and steps rather than the environment.  This led to sharing time about how to use this skill to calm and focus in daily life.

Art teachers Jill and Nancy then taught everyone how to make their own musical flutes called, ocarina, from kits ordered on-line.  The pre-cut wooden sections were like a puzzle needing to be carefully pieced and glued together; cooperation was often sought from a neighboring crafter.  Once the four-hole instruments were completed, everyone gathered outside to practice songs.  The activity became a metaphor for the peace-making process that leads to making beautiful music together.

by Hannah Hochkeppel, K4P Seattle Program Director

An Evangelical Christian Pastor, a Unitarian Minister, a Buddhist Monk, and a Jewish Business Woman walk in to a room … and it is not the beginning of a bad or confusing joke!

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry’s Interfaith Harmony Week banquet.  The theme of this year’s banquet was, “What in the world are we here for?”  This question, one I think many of us often ask ourselves in jest, was addressed by each of the 4 panelists.  Each panelist spoke from his or her own personal experience and personal faith tradition.  Despite the extremely different approaches to faith, spirituality, and the human experience, each panelist spoke of the interconnectedness of humanity and of a desire to work always for the greater good.

Rev. Jon Luopa, a Unitarian Minister, spoke of the transitive versus intransitive use of the word hope.   For so many, hope is confined to a specific item or idea – hoping for good weather on vacation, or hoping for a favorite present on our birthday.  Luopa challenged the audience to think more broadly about how we define hope.  What if hope was instead the way that we chose to approach our life each day?  What if hope brought about a self-awareness of the responsibility we have to the greater good?

Taijo, a Buddhist Monk, began his sharing with the story of a lotus flower, growing in a lotus pond to be big and beautiful, with an unrivaled delicious scent.  He painted the picture for all of us of this beautiful flower.  Then he began to describe the pond that the flower grows in.  Stagnant water, compost and waste, dirt and mud, the list goes on but it is obvious that this pond is dirty and smells decidedly less delicious than the flower.  This description jarred us from our image of this beautiful flower, to an image drastically different.  Taijo left us with this thought: if a flower as beautiful as the Lotus could grow from the disgusting lotus pond, what can come from the difficult, and decidedly less hopeful situations that we find ourselves in from day to day, week to week?

lotuspond

As I was reflecting on the question, “Why on earth are we here,”  I settled on the word we.  We are here, we exist in the world.  I do not exist alone, nor do others exist alone, but we all exist together.  Many times this existing together as a dynamic we means that we find ourselves in messy lotus ponds fraught with political arguments, violent actions, and prejudice based on any number of judgements that one passes on the other.  Despite this mess, how does hope influence what grows?

In Kids4Peace, the interfaith work that we do is often messy.  It is hard, and emotionally draining.  Yet, it is also beautiful and life-giving.  The intentionality that we have as we cultivate growth amidst the messiness, intentionally seeing and upholding the gifts we see in others, gives me hope.  I am hopeful for the greater good of the we when I see others willing to come together amidst the mess, to find the roots for what one day, I hope, will be a big and beautiful flower.

LotusFlower

Meet Luke!

shoshanak4p —  February 16, 2016 — Leave a comment

My name is Luke Froude and I am from New York State. I recently graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz with a degree in Political Science. When I was eleven years old I was introduced to a peace education organization called CISV. For the past twelve years I have been involved with children from around the world to promote dialogue and friendship. Having participated in programs similar to Kids4Peace, I personally know how life-changing these experiences can be, which is why I couldn’t be happier to be a part of K4P! My time here will be spent reaching out to people who have participated in Kids4Peace and helping share their experiences on our blog. I look froward to mLuke Froudeeeting more people who have been impacted by their time with Kids4Peace and telling their stories!

My name is Emma Yingst, and I have recently begun an internship with Kids4Peace! I am a freshman at American University, majoring in International Relations (with a focus in the Middle East and South Asia) and minoring in Print Journalism. I grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and have always had an avid interest in the world outside of my hometown bubble. This led me to travel abroad with a group of students to BEmma Yingstali, Indonesia, where I got my first taste of volunteering abroad as well as being on my own in a foreign country. These experiences have led me to my major and to Kids4Peace. I heard about an event that Kids4Peace was hosting at Busboys and Poets, and for one of my classes, I had to go to one event outside of the college that deals with International Relations. I attended “Is Peace Still Possible? Q&A with Jerusalem’s Peace Activists”. I was enthralled at the event, hearing the different speakers and their stories, and I knew that I wanted to be involved in this organization in any way, shape, or form! At the talk, I heard that by people’s limited experiences with each other, they tended to form the “one-story” perspective; that is, only seeing one side of a multi-faceted person or people. To facilitate understanding, and essentially peace, I love the idea of bringing people together of different ethnicity, religions, and cultures, which Kids4Peace aims to do. While interning, I hope to broaden my knowledge of Israel-Palestine relations, as well as all that Kids4Peace does abroad and at home. I am excited for the work that I will be doing (social media/database) and am thrilled to be a part of the Kids4Peace team!

by Sarah Rose, K4P Seattle Counselor

Kids4Peace Seattle’s overnight last weekend was one for the books! It was filled with laughter, fun, and bonding between the first and second year participants. We watched the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out, and then tried to connect the ideas presented with the mission of Kids4Peace. We examined the importance of accepting everyone, recognizing what individuals can contribute and that everyone has something valuable to offer to society in some way. We also discussed the importance of understanding our emotions. Our dialogue leader, Pam, asked us to share a time we felt sad but did not feel we could reveal it. One of the second year participants, Maya, noted that, she “learned that there are different perspectives on each side. Someone isn’t being mean just because they want to be mean, there’s always something else going on that causes them to act out that way. Listening and understanding where they are coming from is key to accepting them.”

The issue of popularity in school and its impacts came up and definitely struck a chord for all of the participants. Establishing a safe place for everyone to be open allowed for a meaningful and eye-opening experience for all. One of the first-year participants, David, explained that he “liked how we talked about popularity and shared our real feelings. We weren’t holding anything back. It helped me understand that we all have different situations but we can still connect.”

DSC_0236

The group hard at work at the Jewish Family Service food bank.

 

Emilio, another first-year participant, came to similar conclusions stating, “I really liked the discussion about popularity, because we never talked about that stuff before so it was nice to hear other people are experiencing the same things. I also really liked our discussion this morning about connecting more with each other. I feel like now the 7th graders are talking more with the 8th graders so I feel more comfortable talking with them.”

As I sat listening to the discussion, I became even more amazed and inspired by the participants. To be able to have such an open and mature conversation and share such insightful thoughts was truly an unforgettable experience. By allowing themselves to be vulnerable and talk about a tough and very personal matter, they become an even stronger and more connected group. In Seattle, we would refer to this as the “magic” of Kids4Peace.

Another magical experience of the weekend happened when we had Hebrew and Arabic lessons. Two of Seattle’s Program Team members, Tamar and Rula, taught us conversational phrases along with some food words (such as chicken, cheese, and bread). On the one hand, this was quite fun for the kids, but on the other hand it was very frustrating. This exercise helped the kids understand what it must have been like for their friends from Jerusalem to come to camp and not know a lot of English. Beginning to understand the difficulty of learning new languages led to a conversation about how to stand in solidarity with people they encounter who do not speak English well.

DSC_0095

The group learns some Arabic and Hebrew phrases with Rula (and baby Malka!) and Tamar.

 

Standing in solidarity with each other, our friends in Jerusalem, and everyone that we encounter has been our theme this year during discussions and activities in meetings. Hearing about the seemingly relentless violence in Jerusalem, where we all have friends living, has been heart-breaking for all of us here in Seattle.  We continue to find hope in the actions of others, not just in Jerusalem but around the world.

The fact that the Kids4Peace Jerusalem family is stronger than ever and continues to have hope that peace is still obtainable, is truly inspiring and amazing. Seattle will continue to stand in solidarity with Jerusalem. Although we could not be physically any farther apart, our faith, love, and connection to our K4P family on the other side of the world is closer than ever.

Above: A short film that Kids4Peace Seattle made for our friends in Jerusalem.

Tahera AhmadStand Up for Each Other
A Message From the Executive Director

Maybe you saw Kids4Peace in the news last week?

Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim scholar, interfaith leader, and chaplain at Northwestern University was on her way to DC, when she experienced an act of discrimination on her flight, compounded by hateful words from a passenger.

She was coming to speak with the Kids4Peace Board about interfaith relations in America and the challenges facing American Muslims.

In an interview, Tahera said this:

It’s indicative of something much deeper happening in our country right now… Minority groups are saying they’re in a lot of pain. If you fail to recognize the bigotry, prejudice and stereotypes that create a culture, that continues to promote cyclical injustice. We can’t continue to do that. All this pain and all this hurt, it’s just not OK.

Kids4Peace is working to change this culture of prejudice and injustice, so Tahera’s experience of discrimination does not happen again.

To me, the most painful part of Tahera’s story is the fact that other passengers did not support her.

“I thought people would defend me and say something,” she said.  

No one did.  Where were the people of faith and courage?  Where were my fellow Christians, who are taught over and over to stand with those on the margins?

In the face of bigotry and hatred, real change begins when we have the courage to stand up for each other.  That’s what we do in Kids4Peace.

I hear so many stories of Kids4Peace youth standing up for the other, at great personal risk – both in Jerusalem and here in the USA.  From the age of twelve, K4P youth are challenging the prejudices of their teachers, defending peers against bullying, and refusing to join the vitriolic chants of their ‘friends.

They have courage to do this because they have each other, and because they have you standing alongside them.

This week, Board member Sue Bloch published a  powerful profile of Eve, a young peacemaker in Seattle.

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

We can only do it together.  Together with Eve and Tahera and interfaith leaders across the globe, Kids4Peace is building a new culture of peace and a powerful movement for change.

It’s time to stand up and tell the world that there is another way.

Stand up for each other.  Stand up, when you hear words of prejudice.  Stand up, when you see injustice.  Stand up, when you see someone’s pain.

Kids4Peace also needs you now.  As tensions rise at home and around the world, we need everyone to do their part.  What can you do?

  • Volunteer, make a donation, spread the word.
  • Share Eve’s story on social media or write a note to Tahera.
  • Host a speaker in your congregation or community.
  • Encourage kids to sign up for  camp.  Preach a sermon about Kids4Peace.
  • Visit us in Jerusalem, and so much more.

We are #UnitedForTahera – and united in our commitment to challenge all acts of discrimination and injustice.   It’s time to stand up for peace.

null
Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director
Kids4Peace International (josh@k4p.org)

PS — K4P Board Vice-President Yakir Englander was a colleague of Tahera’s at Northwestern.  His reflections are on the Kids4Peace Blog.  Read more >> 

 

Presentation to the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at Temple Kol Emeth, Marietta, GA
November, 2014

My name is Montaser Mohammad Mousa Khalil Suliman Mohammad Abdulrahman Mohammad Amro, but you can call me Mono. Recently, however, since returning to America, many people have had troubles with Mono, so I’m considering making it even simpler- Mike. Maybe even M. My story and the reason WHY I’m here, however, is not simple.

See, I’ve been an advocate for peace for almost ten years, and I believe that not only does peace come from within, but I believe that we can create change.

I was born in Bethlehem, Palestine on February 20, 1991 to Mohammad and Lamia Amro. My parents expected the best from me. This caused me to excel academically from a young age. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was selected to be an international foreign exchange student. I was elated because I was going to finally see the America that had starred in all of my favorite movies. But where was I going? Would I be heading to the city that never sleeps, New York? Or maybe I could spend my academic year in the Windy City- Chicago, Illinois. Maybe I could create memories that could only stay in the city of Las Vegas! I eagerly awaited the announcement of where my cultural learning would take place in the states.

However, my excitement came to a screeching halt when I read the name of a state I had never heard of before- Alabama. Little did I know, Alabama was the epitome of racial oppression, even in present day. My work was definitely cut out for me. I arrived in the fall of 2006 and quickly realized that I could not live in this state for long. I planned to return to Palestine and go back to the life I knew. I lived in an apartment where I shared a bedroom with 2 young children as well as another foreign exchange student. There were four of us sleeping on two beds in a house with no heat and hardly ever any hot water. This made the hot summers in Palestine look like a Florida vacation. However, I later met a family that took me in, gave me a much bigger room and a bed of my own. Things were looking up, except for the fact that I shared the house with the family’s mentally disabled aunt. We got along great! Until one day she decided she no longer wanted me in her house and decided to chase me with a knife! The only person’s number I had in my phone was a guy I had met a few weeks earlier- Corey. Corey and I didn’t like each other very much, but I knew that he was a loyal guy.

Corey ended up letting me move into his house, and even became my legal guardian while in the states! This experience dramatically changed my life, as well as my perception and tolerance of others, mainly because Corey and I hated each other in the beginning. After moving in with Corey, I slept in the same room with him on his couch. We spent many nights comparing Islam to Christianity, talking about racism and music. However, our deepest conversations stemmed around a subject that we both were passionate about- food. He soon started referring to me as his brother and showed me that not all Americans are the same. Corey got the school to allow me to go to prom, go to Panama City Beach for Spring Break, attend concerts, church meetings, late night movie screenings and even introduced me to the culinary delicacy known as Taco Bell.

Saying goodbye at the summer of 2007 was not an easy thing to do, even when just a few months prior, I was begging to go back home. After returning back to Palestine, I pursued a degree in Civil Engineering from Palestine Polytechnic University. After graduating university in 2013, I decided to set my sights on my true passion- bringing peace.

I searched around for different ways to help, and stumbled across an organization called Kids 4 Peace this organizations’ mission was a simple grassroots , interfaith concept dealing with youth , its main vision is to end the conflict and inspire hope , not just in Jerusalem but also in all societies around the world , kids4peace mission is to build interfaith communities that embody a culture of peace and empower a movement of change . I immediately enrolled to become an Advisor !

People often ask me what Kids 4 Peace means to me. There is no simple answer to this. When you truly have a passion for something, you’re following everything with your heart- not your mind.

Therefore, I can not quite put a simple answer into words. However, I reflect on my past. I think back to the days that I vowed to see Israel fall. I think back to the days that I viewed America as a corrupted country. I then think back not too long ago when my mind was changed and I realized I was wrong. I could not continue to live life generalizing every culture. I realized during my visit in 2007 that no two people are alike. However, it didn’t stop at someone’s nationality, it also extended to their religious beliefs. Famous, influential musician John Lennon said it best when he said, “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Moses , Jesus and Mohammed and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”

These spiritual leaders had many messages, verses and direction. However, every word ever spoken by them was deeply rooted by one simple message- love. Anne Frank believed that no matter the physical and psychological torture she and her family were put through people still had good in them , she said that despite everything I believe that people are really good at heart.  Despite everything a young girl who was beaten , starved , molested , witnessed hundreds of thousands of Jewish executions , this girl said despite of all that people still have a heart , as many know , the conflict between Israel and Palestine have gotten worse throughout our lifetime , there’s unnecessary killing and violence on both sides , there’s unfiltered hatred on both sides and will never be validated.

Imam Ali “ KAW “ even said , “ ignorance reveals itself in the following , being very angry without cause , speaking without need , rewarding the undeserving , not distinguishing between friend and foe , the ignorant never realizes his mistake “ , I believe change can happen , when you refuse change for humanity , you’re putting your own selfish agenda before anyone else .

As Leon Uris once said “After all, the only thing that is going to save mankind is if enough people live their lives for something or someone other than themselves.”  It was also John Lennon that helped coin the phrase “all you need is love.”

This message is so simple, yet so influential. All you need is love. The world does not need us. The world does not need the Bible, the Quran or any other religious text. Because that’s all it is- text. It is a tangible thing. However, love is intangible. It can not be physically touched, but can be felt. Love does not have an image, but can be seen. It can not make a noise, but can be heard. Love is the most complex, confusing, terrifying yet gorgeous and fascinating thing that will be a part of this Earth for eternity…as long as we let it.

Kids 4 Peace has helped me utilize my tools to show that love can overcome anything.

To quote another wise man, Master Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Kids 4 Peace taught me that love can make us brave. Love can bring joy and can end the suffering.

During the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of 2014, there were 2200 reported deaths on both sides. However, the true numbers will never be known. What can be known is that during the same year, Kids 4 Peace held a camp with over 100 campers from both conflicting sides. If each camper told 10 people of their enlightened time spent with the organization, we could reach over half the number of the reported casualties…in one year. Amazing. The organization is still young, and so is my role within it. However, I plan on being an integral part of this organization for however long they allow me.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg said “ if you don’t know what you’re living for , you haven’t yet lived “ I feel my purpose on this Earth is to make change and bring peace. Change starts young, with kids. I can bring change with Kids 4 Peace.

I would love to thank kids4peace for helping me come back to where I now call home- America. I would also like to thank them for allowing me the opportunity to create the change that my heart aches for every day. Many people walk through life wondering what purpose does their life have. I’m privileged to not only know what my purpose is, but be able to fulfill it. I would also like to thank the congregation of Temple Kol-Emeth for the invitation to come and visit with you , as well as the acceptance of someone of my Islamic faith my faith in rooted in my love for mankind no matter their background.  Thank you