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Commonalities among the Abrahamic faiths

Finding common ground in several faith expressions of peace and the phrase, “one tree, many branches,” are the primary focus of a five-day Interfaith Peace Camp program to be held June 22-26 on the Eastern Mennonite University campus.
Members from The Islamic Association of Shenandoah Valley, Beth El Congregation, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Valley Friends Meeting, Park View Mennonite Church and Shalom Mennonite Congregation, with support from EMU, are organizing and sponsoring the camp for rising first- through sixth-graders from the Valley.

According to one of the organizers, Vesna Hart, the program “will introduce about 40 participants to Abrahamic faith traditions in order to build bridges of peace between their own faith communities and other communities. The “Abrahamic faiths” are Judaism, Christianity and Islam, so called because the major Old Testament figure Abraham is a part of the scripture of all three faiths.

After the successful three-day pilot camp last year and positive feedback from children, parents and the wider community, organizers expanded this year’s camp to five days and involved more faith communities in the planning.

“We hope this camp contributes to inspiring youth of all ages to understand how various faith communities express and practice peace,” Ms. Hart said. “Campers will focus on faith expressions of peace, but attendees are not required to be aligned with any particular religious tradition.

“At the heart of peace building is relationship building,” Hart added, “and the best way to build relationships is through open and sincere communication between diverse faiths and peoples. Building relationships with others heightens the likelihood that we won’t want to hurt the other.”

“If we want peace to some day break out among us, we must first teach it to our kids,” said Roberta Stein of Beth El Congregation.

“We focus on children, but we adults, as we plan for the camp, are also building bridges of peace and understanding among ourselves,” said Zeinab Hassouna of the Islamic Association of Shenandoah Valley.

The camp will utilize large and small group work including recreational, artistic, dramatic and musical activities. Other opportunities to promote interfaith understanding will come through sharing of cultural foods and open time for exploration and inquiry.

Field trips are scheduled during the week to the Beth El synagogue, Beth El congregation the mosque of the Islamic Association of Shenandoah Valley and to Park View Mennonite Church. Campers and family members will gather for an evening potluck to celebrate peacemaking and share their experiences as a final activity.

For more information about this event or to schedule an interview with a planning committee member, contact Gretchen Maust at 540.432.4674 or or Vesna Hart at


– Story by Jim Bishop