On the second day of Peace Camp, middle schoolers heard from three leaders — Zahra, Skye and Liam — on why interfaith leadership is important to them.

(L-R) Zahra, Skye and Liam

“Be the change,” they said simply.

This was the fifth edition of Peace Camp and Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, described it as a huge success. In all, 38 middle school campers and 27 high school and college leaders came together for two days, Feb. 18 and 19, of learning about interfaith literacy, reverence for different religions — and learning the tools to counteract hate, both online and in person.

“This event is important because religious-based fear and hate start early,” Fr. Corey says. “During the camp, even sixth graders can identify it and have experienced it. Our goal is to help these kids grow in interfaith literacy, while also learning skills to speak out against faith-based bigotry and bullying.”

Rabbi Richard Prass describes the sanctuary at Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove.

During the two days, students visited a mosque, synagogue and a Christian church in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs. At each stop, students received a tour as well as a presentation about that particular faith tradition and its important artifacts. They also spent time getting to know one another, through icebreakers and the ever-popular “rock, scissors, paper” game.

Fr. Corey founded the Children of Abraham Coalition in 2010 in response to the growing number of hate-based events in the wake of 9/11. Right from the start, he offered events that promoted interfaith dialogue between people of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions.

This year’s Peace Camp was especially timely in a world rocked by violence in the Middle East, Ukraine and Yemen, as well as a surge in Antisemitic attacks and anti-Muslim hate crimes. Consequently, the idea of young people coming together to attend a Peace Camp resonated.

Campers visit the Islamic Society of the Midwest.

“Through the years, we’ve seen kids return to the camp and then get involved in more interfaith youth events through the year,” Fr. Corey says. “The result is they grow in their knowledge of — and reverence for — other faiths, while making friendships that motivate them to speak out against stereotypes.

“They tell stories about how they’ve spoken out,” he adds, “and how the skills we’ve taught them for speaking out have helped them.”