Campers Venture Out for Understanding
The understanding and relationships sewn from a successful interfaith peace camp for youths are being nurtured, grown and expanded under a partnership with the Fetzer Institute.
Leaders of the Center for Interfaith Engagement at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) have long facilitated interfaith dialogues, mutual understanding, love and forgivenss through summer youth camps including the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities near the EMU campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
The project will identify new methodologies on how to engage religious communities across America in positive interfaith dialogues on love and forgiveness. The project will also formalize and publicize the curriculum of the university’s interfaith peace camp program and expand it to new communities to promote peace and solidarity between communities.
The Harrisonburg camp includes visits to local synagogues, mosques and churches to enhance learning in authentic settings. The visits engage participants in projects such as large and small group work, cultural art, theater and music, healthy food and recreational activities, service learning projects, and a family potluck featuring food from each camper’s cultural heritage. The interaction has encouraged groups that normally do not relate to each other in an interfaith context to forge friendships and love and forgiveness.
In addition to the interfaith peace camp at EMU, a camp started last year in London, Ontario is planning its second season this year. Strong interest has been shown in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and other communities considering such a gathering include Champaign, Illinois, Gainesville, Florida and Iowa City, Iowa.
Some key questions in the study include gauging how interfaith camps change the attitudes of participants, how much they lead to interfaith discussions afterward and how open participants are to the ‘religious other’ after experiencing the camp. It is hoped that CIE camp “graduates” will act as ambassadors and trainers as the project grows into new locations.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on World Religions and Spiritualities.