Thursday, June 17, 2010

Agape-Satyagraha peace program begins at three new pilot sites.

It looks like it could be tutoring: an after-school program, adults and youth paired together, having intense conversations. But if you listen closely, no one is talking about math or history or literature. The word coming up again and again is peace.

Not a generic peace, like peace on earth, but rather how these students can choose peace in their day-to-day activities. They role play ways to respond to situations they face: in school with bullies, interactions in their neighborhoods, and how to help friends who may be angry at one another.

Adults call this conflict resolution, with a foundation in social theory and religious philosophy that informs their conversations; whereas in these classrooms it is called Agape-Satyagraha building upon Jesus’ philosophy of interpersonal love and Gandhi’s belief that nonviolent expressions of truth are forceful.

It is On Earth Peace’s newest program offering. The program equips youth to confront violence with active nonviolence. These skills are taught within the context that the youth face in their lives, preparing them to think about the larger context of their communities, country, and the world as a whole.

Agape-Satyagraha was developed in Harrisburg, Pa., by Brethren Community Ministry’s director Gerald Rhoades in response to school shootings in 2001. "Youth need alternatives to solving conflicts rather than fighting," he reflected. Success in Harrisburg inspired On Earth Peace to develop a curriculum that could be expanded to other communities.

Donations from Church of the Brethren constituents and a matching grant from the Shumaker Foundation have enabled three new pilot sites: Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren; Elm Street Church of the Brethren in Lima, Ohio; and Beaver Dam Church of the Brethren in Union Bridge, Md. There are currently 22 youth and 17 adult mentors active in the Agape-Satyagraha program.

Site coordinators hold monthly phone calls to share updates, hear from On Earth Peace staff, work on specific questions, and network with one another. Communication also includes individual site check-ins with On Earth Peace staff and weekly and monthly written reports.

The Agape-Satyagraha program continues to grow. On Earth Peace is currently in conversation with four congregations discerning their call to bring this message of peace to the youth in their communities. This is a possibility because of the time donated by volunteers in the classroom and donors from around the country who support the vision that young people can change the world, if we teach them how.

For more information visit

-- Gimbiya Kettering is communications coordinator for On Earth Peace.

Source: 6/17/2010 Newsline

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