30 March 2007

Children are the Peacebuilders in India

Children are not often asked for their opinions on the big issues of life, but church partners in India and the UK have decided that children are the perfect place to start when talking about peace. This Easter, representatives from the Methodist and United Reformed Churches are visiting India to ask children what they think needs to be done to build a more peaceful future.

Peacebuilders Ð Children for Peace is a programme by the United Reformed and Methodist Churches in Great Britain, working with the Church of North India and the Hyderabad-based Henry Martyn Institute for research, interfaith relations and reconciliation. Starting with groups of children, they aim to share knowledge and experiences, working together towards peace on many levels from local to international.

The launch of Peacebuilders on Saturday 7 April in Delhi will be attended by street children, UN organisations, NGOs, church leaders and children from local schools. It will feature songs, drama and stories from local children and a preview of the Peacebuilders DVD.

Sudipta Singh, Director of Programmes for the Church of North India, has warmly welcomed the opportunity of this unique co-operation, 'Children are central to our Church, peace is central to our faith so we are delighted to be working together in this way with our British colleagues.'

Ruby Beech, Vice-President Designate of the Methodist Conference, is among the visiting party. She says: 'Peace is everyone's responsibility and children have a huge role to play, in fact it's the children who often push us to work harder for peace. We're not telling children what to do to create peace in their communities Ð we are here to listen and let them teach us.'

During their stay in India, Stephen Orchard, Moderator Designate of the United Reformed Church, Steve Pearce, Methodist Children's Secretary and Ruby will visit projects such as the Sultan Shahi School, which provides schooling for children, men and women from local Muslim and Hindu communities. It aims to make community peace-building central to all its activities. They will also visit schools, an outreach to slum children and an inter faith community centre at Bankura. They will celebrate Easter day in local churches.

Stephen says: 'In today's society, it is so clear that our communities Ð and the whole world Ð need peace. Peacebuilders is about taking small, and perhaps some larger, steps for peace. We believe that by working together and using our enthusiasm and experience we can make more peace, day by day.'

Groups are encouraged to make their own 'Peace Boxes' featuring the Peacebuilders logo in which they can put ideas for making peace a reality in their communities. The box will move round other groups in the community so that people can share and add to the suggestions, hopes and prayers. Ruby and Stephen will present two Peace Boxes made by children in Britain to the children in Hyderabad and Delhi.

Educational material to support the initiative will be available from June 2007.

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