Campus & Community

Area youth travel to Middle East to talk about peace

Sixteen Denver area high school students traveled to Israel and the West Bank early this summer to talk to other youths about peace.

The trip was sponsored by DU’s Student Interfaith Peace Project, a program of the Institute for the Study of Israel in the Middle East in DU’s Josef KorbelSchool of International Studies.

Peace project Director Deborah Rohan Schleuter says the students — who come from Jewish, Muslim and Christian backgrounds — were working to create a network that will continue on for many years.

“If you look at the world, it’s breaking down around religious traditions. If you expose people to different faiths and cultures at a young age, they will embrace differences and not be afraid. They’ll be open to talking to all groups,” she says.

The students, who attend 10 different schools, met monthly from October to May to prepare. They learned about the cultures and religious beliefs of those they’d be visiting (primarily Israelis and Palestinians), and deepened their listening skills.

Brooke Porter, a sophomore at the Denver Center for International Studies, says she wasn’t sure what to expect before she went. Now, she says learning firsthand about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict made it much clearer.

“We could have dialogue even though we were from different faiths,” Porter says. “It’s more than just visiting people; I made contact with people.”

Porter says she and her new friends have been e-mailing and sending digital photos.

Rohan Schleuter says besides e-mail, they’re working on developing social networking software and will be able to maintain connections through videoconferencing.

While the complex, long-term Israeli-Palestinian conflict begs for a political solution, Rohan Schleuter says it also will take people talking about peace.

“On the ground you have to have people making peace,” she says. “For example, this group of Palestinian, Jewish and Bedouins only came together as a group to talk to us.”

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