Thursday, August 13, 2009

What if Jesus met Gandhi at a youth group in Pennsylvania?

What if Jesus met Gandhi? At a youth group? In Pennsylvania? It would be Agape-Satyagraha!

Young people do not need to read the "Wall Street Journal" to know that society is dealing with a deepening economic depression. They get the news at home by reading the anxiety of their parents. And it trickles down! Internalizing this, some kids begin to lash out in anger or turn to bullying at school. Others seek a sense of belonging and safety by joining gangs.

Where do kids go to be safe? How can they feel safe amid this stress? When do they learn to deal with anger?

In Harrisburg, Pa., it is at the Agape-Satyagraha program initiated by Brethren Community Ministries, a program of First Church of the Brethren with leadership from Gerald Rhoades, who serves on the church's pastoral team. On Earth Peace recently began partnering with the ministry, and hopes to help other congregations across the denomination replicate it in their own communities.

What is Agape-Satyagraha? The word agape is a Greek word used in the New Testament to describe the love Jesus commanded that his followers have for one another. Satyagraha is a Sanskrit word popularized by Mahatma Gandhi to describe nonviolent resistance that supports justice without eliminating the oppressor.

The program in Harrisburg teaches youth how to recognize and respond to their own feelings, how to respond to others in positive ways other than violence, and how to turn the other cheek. Agape-Satyagraha offers a five-level peace training equipping youth with skills for daily life and long-term development as community leaders.

Adults call this conflict resolution and transformation skills. But Agape-Satyagraha sounds way cooler! It is making peace hip (and hop) for a new generation, offering hope for youth during this economic downturn.

The Shumaker Family Foundation has made a challenge grant of $12,500 to On Earth Peace to support the Agape-Satyagraha program. For more information go to Congregations interested in becoming a pilot site of Agape-Satyagraha are invited to contact Marie Rhoades at or 717-867-1902.

-- Gimbiya Kettering serves as communications staff for On Earth Peace.

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline

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