Seattle’s Middle East Peace Camp brings together Muslim, Jewish and Christian children with the simple goal of forging bonds and friendships. MEPC states its belief is that “when people meet and get to know each other at the human level, many of the barriers that divide us dissipates. By creating a space where children and young adults can learn about each other and build friendships, understanding, and compassion in a relaxed and fun environment, we encourage partnerships that will foster the social and political change needed to work towards peace and social justice.”
Mahmoud is a teenage camp counselor and says she credits the camp in helping her build her own self-confidence as the only Muslim student in her Christian high school. “Camp’s made me break stereotypes that I would’ve had beforehand if I didn’t necessarily have any Christian or Jewish friends. It’s made me be more of a peacemaker.”
The camp’s focus on peace is particularly relevant today given the spike in hate crimes nationally and in Seattle. Muslims and Jews are the two most targeted religious groups in the nation.
The camp first started in the shadow of 9-11 when mothers Anyssa Mahmoud and Beth Mahmoud Howell reached out to the local Arab/Muslim and Jewish communities with their idea of starting an interfaith camp. The first day of camp started in the yard of civic activist and philanthropist Kay Bullitt, in the summer of 2002.
Since then, MEPC has seen hundreds of campers do everything from sing for the Dalai Lama to participate in Arabic folk dances to taking leadership roles in local peace movements. “I think we’re planting seeds for future leaders of this world,” says Janet Clark, who is on MEPC’s leadership committee.