Since the Norwegian tragedy, I’ve heard much in the media about the need for heightened security and of police failure — the idea being we must prevent such violence in the future. Mahatma Gandhi and Maria Montessori had something to say about that.
In the 1930s, Gandhi visited Montessori’s teacher training school in England. In a speech he said, “You have truly remarked that to reach real peace in this world . . . we shall have to begin with children . . . until at last all corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.” We live in violent times; Montessori and Gandhi did as well. I think it made them more determined to make a difference.
Beginning with children is what The Art of Peace Camps
are about. They provide a safe space for children to ask questions about peace, refugees, greed, pollution — whatever they like. Using arts such as writing, drama, music, drumming, dance and acting, children and adults explore personal peace, peace with nature, peace in families and communities, and peace in the world.
By offering peaceful tools and practices, these day camps provide an antidote to bullying and to violent entertainment and games. God knows that adults don’t have all the answers; the exploration works to encourage fresh insights into ways of peace for all generations.
The camps started in Calgary in 2006, supported by Scarboro United Church. Woodcliff United started one in 2008, and they have sprouted up elsewhere — in Halifax and in Orillia and Minden, Ont. Some include a religious component; some do not. A new camp, under the direction of Thea Patterson of Abbey North
will run at Zion United in Carnarvon, Ont., from Aug. 22 to 24.
Last spring, when my husband Bill attended a conference at St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton he told Rev. Emmanuel Gatera about the peace camps. Later, Emmanuel told me, “When I heard about the peace camps, I felt the voice of God speak to me. When I return to Rwanda, I will start one.”
In 2009, Fif Fernandes and Hamish Boyd ran a peace camp in Uganda for war-affected youth. This summer, Isabelle Klaiber is taking her experience to children in Northern Ireland. I’m looking forward to October when I will visit Williamstown, Kitchener and Five Oaks in Ontario and in Medicine Hat, Alta. to speak about how to start peace camps.
As one boy in Calgary said in his evaluation last year, “It would be cool for grone ups to do this, too.” I believe that Gandhi and Montessori would agree.
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