Jews, Christians, Muslims unite at camp

By 
  • December 3, 2007

Kids4Peace.jpgTORONTO - “Twenty-four kids. Three faiths. One planet” is the slogan for Kids4Peace, a summer camp that aims to bring peace to the Middle East a dozen families at a time.

“We are trying to change the world, but we are doing something really simple. We are sending kids to camp to have a good time,” said Bill James, a camp organizer.

Twelve Canadian kids will be paired up with 12 Middle Eastern kids for a summer camp experience at Outward Bound in Burk’s Falls, Ont., from Aug. 1 to 13.

Kids4Peace started in 2002 when members of St. George’s College in Jerusalem organized a summer camp in Houston, Texas, for four Jewish, four Muslim and four Christian 11-year-old boys and girls. Since then 120 Palestinian and Israeli kids from Jerusalem and Galilee have participated at camps in Houston, Atlanta and Toronto.

{sidebar id=1} “It was really fun. You got to meet kids from Israel,” said Daniel Mercier, a 13-year-old Jewish participant who attended the camp last summer.

His 11-year-old sister Sophie plans to go this summer.

“I want to meet other Jewish kids to find out what life is like in Israel,” she said.

The logic behind a camp designed for 11-year-olds is that they are young enough to be open to new ideas, yet old enough to travel, said David Ross, a camp organizer.

Melissa Prickaerts attended the camp in 2004. Learning about the Islamic and Jewish faiths through the friends she made strengthened her own Christian roots.

“I learned what’s important about my faith too,” said the 14-year-old Anglican.

Eight months after attending the camp she decided to switch from a secular public school to Holland Marsh District Christian School.

Kids4Peace is non-denominational, non-political and non-partisan and promises not to proselytize.

“I don’t think any one of them is afraid of losing their faith,” said Dr. Janet Ritch, a Catholic planning committee member.

While the aim of this program is to break down barriers and create peace between children of the Abrahamic faiths, it also tries to open dialogue among parents.

“Children bring adults together,” said Zahida Murtaza, a Muslim member of the planning committee.

The Canadian chapter is sponsored by Scarboro Missions and Scouts Canada. Kid4Peace Toronto is still accepting applications for the 2008 summer camp experience. For information contact Paul McKenna at Scarboro Missions at (416) 261-7135 or visit www.kids4peace.ca.

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