Photo courtesy of Building leaders for Peace

In July 2017, over 100 Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, Americans, Canadians, Aussies, and Brits came together for the second Building Leaders 4 Peace (BL4P) camp in Turkey.  BL4P seeks to be a gathering together, a place where love unites and forgiveness brings peace and hope. West Coast MCC and Fresno Pacific University are partnering together with BL4P to host the first peace camp in the United States on the campus of Fresno Pacific University in Fresno, California.  The camp will be held June 27 - July 3, 2018.

Fresno, Calif., -- We live in a divided world.  Culture, politics, religion or ideologies can bring frustration and confusion.  Many of us desire to be people of peace but lack the basic tools to know how to make that happen in our context.

For the first time in the United States, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) will partner with Building Leaders 4 Peace (BL4P) and Fresno Pacific University to host a peace camp in Fresno, California for young adults to learn and experience peace together among Islamic, Christian and Sikh faith backgrounds.

Participants will experience a week-long camp of learning and serving together in an interfaith, intercultural, multiracial environment. Young adults will have an opportunity to share perspectives, learn about peace, and serve in the Fresno community together.  Most importantly, build authentic friendships with those they might have not ever considered friendships with before.

“I believe all people have the same human needs, explains Mark Thompson. “We need to be seen, heard, loved, and feel like we have some importance to God and others. BL4P programs help provide space for that to happen.”

Thompson, one of the planning leaders for BL4P, works with MB Mission as Short-Term Mission Mobilizer in Fresno, California. He believes that many are tired of the hate. People want to be released from the bondage of hostility – they just don’t know how to get there.

"Many people try to ‘keep the peace,’ but few know how to be peacemakers."

- Mark Thompson

So, the question is - Do you know how to be a peacemaker in the world?

We invite you to be a part of this intentional community.  The camp is open to all young adults ages 18 – 26 years old.  The event will be held at Fresno Pacific University on June 27 – July 3, 2018.

“Join us,” invites Sam Oommen.  “We need you.” Oommen, known as “Saji” to friends, welcomes all to the camp. 

BL4P believes that peace is possible. Participants experience events and gatherings that help develop young leaders who will build peace through friendship, reconciliation, and service.  This photo was taken at the 2017 BL4P peace camp in Iraq. Photo courtesy of Building Leaders 4 Peace

Saji is the Executive Director of BL4P.  He and his team have held peace camps in Turkey, Northern Iraq and Colombia. Previous camps have brought together Syrians, Turks, Iraqis, Colombians, Americans, Canadians, and Australians from a variety of faith and cultural backgrounds. Past BL4P participants share powerful stories of grief, forgiveness and healing. 

Let’s set the record straight.  This isn’t another “Christian” camp – it’s a peacebuilding camp. We will celebrate the strength of our diversity.

“We are inviting people from different faiths to come together,” says Thomas Adlard.  “We want this to be a safe place for people to share their experiences, to be honest and create a space where that they can go to in the future.” Adlard, Administrative Coordinator for West Coast MCC is coordinating the details for the event. 

Adlard and other faith leaders from the Fresno Islamic Cultural Center and Sikh Center of the Pacific Coast are creating a neutral space at the event – no dominating faith group.  Minority faith groups will feel comfortable to share and the relationships built will help offer support to us all moving forward.

Thomas Adlard, center, Administrative Coordinator for West Coast MCC is one of the leaders organizing the BL4P camp. Adlard and other faith leaders from Fresno Islamic Cultural Center and Skih Center of the Pacific Coast shared at Fresno Pacific University to interested students. From left to right, Reza Nekumanesh from Islamic Cultural Center, Thomas Adlard from West Coast MCC and Mandeep Singh from Sikh Center of the Pacific Coast. MCC photo/Renee Harder

Participants will learn and experience peacebuilding together in a relaxed – non-threatening environment.  They will also give back to their community in a service project together in the Fresno area. 

Saji dreams of a new humanity – where young and old, white and black, refugee and free people come together.  He believes if we stay in our own sub-cultures, in our own church groups and neighborhoods, we miss out on the fullness of humanity.  We also don’t get a chance to contribute who we are. 

“You may not be interested,” he says.  “But we need you to be part of it – you need it as well.”