Peace in the Middle East looked a little closer as 24 Jewish, Muslim and Christian kids from the Toronto area and Galilee region of Israel hugged, laughed and said tearful goodbyes. For 10 days they had participated in the Kids4Peace camp.
This is the fifth summer that children from Israel have come to Canada for the Kids4Peace camp, a project that began at St. George’s College with co-operation from St. George’s Cathedral, both in the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem. The Rev. Samuel Barhoum, an Anglican priest in the diocese and director of Kids4Peace in Galilee, says that 11- and 12-year-olds are at a very good age to come to such a camp because they don’t already have preconceived ideas. “We teach them how to love each other, how to respect each other, how to accept each other as they are, [whether] Christian, Muslim or Jew. We all were born in the image of God, and God wants us to live in peace and dignity,” he said.
This year’s camp included visits to a synagogue, mosque and church to help the children learn about each other’s faith.
The camps began in the U.S. in 2002, and Toronto Anglicans David Ross and his wife, Cathie, helped found a Canadian chapter in 2004. Ross and a group of volunteers raise about $75,000 a year, allowing the camp to operate at no cost to the families. “When [the kids from Galilee] come to Canada, we want them to feel welcome by having those of the same religion share their experience. And here we do live in peace, so they see life in an entirely different perspective….” Ω