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, the idea of young people coming together to plan a Peace Camp resonates.

COAC members plan February’s Peace Camp.

It was the teenage board members of the Children of Abraham Coalition who conceived the idea of a camp for middle school students, back in 2018, after experiencing faith-based bigotry themselves.

What they conceived was a camp where Jewish, Muslim and Christian young people could build friendships with each other while they learn about the richness of each other’s religious traditions. They also would learn to develop skills for standing against faith-based prejudice and bullying. Making it even more relatable to middle school students, it would be an interfaith team of high school and college students who would lead them.

“This event is important because religious-based fear and hate start early,” says Fr. Corey Brost, CSV. “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.”

Planning for next year’s camp took place Sunday at the Viatorian Province Center in Arlington Heights. The 2024 edition will take place Feb. 18-19.

Fr. Corey Brost with a young faith leader.

“We’re gearing up for our middle school interfaith Peace Camp,” Fr. Brost said. “These leaders are building a world where Muslim, Jewish and Christian youth lead us all toward peace.”

Included in the planning are setting up visits at a mosque, synagogue and a Christian church in Chicago’s North and Northwest suburbs, and securing representatives who will offer a presentation about their faith tradition and its important artifacts.

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.

“Peace Camp doesn’t end after the camp,” Fr. Brost says. “Campers and leaders gather throughout the year through monthly virtual reunions or service afternoons, so they can continue to develop interfaith friendships, interfaith literacy and interfaith reverence.”