On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Caritas hosts an after-school club where 10-20 children from the neighborhood gather and play games, eat snacks, and make arts and crafts. But this after-school program is unique in that the goal is not just fun, but peace.
The program is called Peacemakers, and their goal is “ to provide a place of joy and creativity allowing the children to express themselves artistically while learning of their God-given potential to change the world for good.” At the MLK Day Homicide Service at Caritas a couple weeks ago, it was shocking for me to hear dozens of names read off with their reason of death cited as “argument.” This powerfully and tragically reveals to us that peacemaking is a skill that does not come naturally to us humans, and needs to be deliberately fostered within us from a young age. Noel, the program director, asserts:
Peace must be openly espoused and taught to our children. We cannot depend on subliminal, incidental learning, or a hidden curriculum. Peace must be actively pursued by parents, teachers, mentors, and children in all parts of the life of the community and educational systems including after-school programs.
The past couple of weeks, members of the Ruka have spent afternoons with the Peacemakers, teaching, drawing, playing and dancing. It has been a joy for me to see us as a part of the larger peacemaking goals for Binghampton and Memphis.
Interestingly enough, Noel lives in intentional Christian community in the neighborhood, and has done so for ten years! We’re hoping to meet with her soon over some caritas chai lattes to hear some of her insights and inspirations on serving Binghampton, living in community, and making peace.