Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Peace Campers Display Creativity, Visit Historic Ephesus

Last night, PTPI Peace Campers spend a few hours before and after dinner working on peace murals, which were as colorful as they were creative. Click here for photo album of the mural-making.

Today, the 28 campers and their four escorts visited inspiring Ephesus (pictured), an ancient Greek city located near Izmir, where we are staying. The students loved everything, especially the 20,000 seat ampitheater. Very, very impressive.

Religon, Spirituality Take Center Stage at Turkey Peace Camp

IZMIR, TURKEY—Take some Jews, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and Hindus, stick them in a room, and see if they'd like to discuss their spiritual beliefs.

Under normal circumstances, such a chore would come with a “may cause serious injury or death” warning. Fortunately, at Peace Camp, which brings together 28 of the world’s finest teenagers, this kind of otherwise dangerous dialogue can be done in a mature, respectful, and accepting manner.

The session began with a religion quiz administered by facilitator Barb Capozzi, who deserves a Nobel Prize for her ability to getting the participants to open up without feeling apprehensive. The quiz was really hard—I got 11/20, and probably did better than most. Following the quiz, Barb asked each of the Peace Campers to get up and explain their spiritual beliefs.

Christians were the largest segment of the teens, which come from 23 countries. They had an interesting discussion about the fact that they don’t agree on the date of Christmas (Jan. 7 for some orthodox; Dec. 25 for others), and also explored how rituals vary from denomination to denomination. They were followed by students intelligently discussing Judaism, Sikhism, and Islam.

The last group of youngsters to speak was loosely labeled non-believers, and consisted of atheists, agnostics, a secular humanist, and several students that said of their spiritual beliefs, “it’s complicated”. Their comments were especially interesting since these beliefs, though widely held, are often hidden because of fear of being ostracized.

A few of the students came right out and said that they do not believe in a higher being. One said that “science facts” turned him away from religion. One other said he believed in a higher power, but that she could not adhere to a religion because of the “bad things it did in the past.” Another commented that she has a “higher regard to reasoning, that which can be proven.” The “it’s complicated” student noted that he is not religious but does have strong spiritual beliefs. Perhaps the most interesting comment was when a Peace Camper said, “I don’t believe in God, but I might one day.”

Several of the non-religious students also commented on the stigma they might face if they openly discussed their beliefs back at home. About half said that they would feel free and open letting others know that they aren’t religious. Others said that “people wouldn’t be happy” and that they would receive negative comments. The most revealing comment was perhaps when a student noted, “People don’t believe that you’ve decided (to not be religious). People say oh, you haven’t searched enough. It’s definitely taboo.”

Thanks to the camaraderie of the Peace Camp, and the warmth and sense of security generated by Barb Capozzi, nothing was taboo today in Izmir.

--Also follow me on Twitter-- @PeaceJourn

No comments:

Post a Comment