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Zones of Peace February 2014

Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania

Recognized by the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia as a Zone of Peace in December 2013.

KI Members volunteering to serve a dignified breakfast to the homeless at Broad Street Ministry

Senior Rabbi Lance Sussman told the interviewers from Zones of Peace that Biblically and theologically, peace is the ultimate goal of the Jewish quest. KI’s staff and lay leadership guide this large congregation (900+families) in an amazing array of programs and initiatives that demonstrate their quest for peace. KI addresses food insecurity in many ways including growing a garden on their property. Children work side by side with adults to tend and harvest the vegetables, and the produce is given to Philabuandance. There also are significant initiatives addressing ecological issues, gun violence, homelessness, and disaster relief (18 large truckloads of supplies were sent to the Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina).

KI: December 25 Mitzvah Day for First Responders

KI provides hospitality for the LGBTQ community and advocates for policies to expand social justice in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, and the nation. It builds interfaith understanding and cooperation in a variety of ways including hosting an Iftar dinner during Ramadan, which becomes an interfaith educational event for the entire community. Within their congregation, every child of every age group participates in interfaith education and helping others with hands-on projects. Within the larger community, KI works in coalition with Meals on Wheels, Interfaith Housing, the Cheltenham Area Multi-Faith Council, POWER, Jewish advocacy groups, Ceasefire PA, and more. KI is able to address big issues and play a role nationally and internationally while never forgetting that each child, youth and adult matters; and that peace is both the congregation’s immediate and ultimate goal.

Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, Ambler, Pennsylvania

Recognized by the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia as a Zone of Peace in December 2013.

Food for the hungry via Philabundance.

At UDLC, the Zones of Peace interview team met with no less than eight lay leaders, each of whom coordinates a significant cluster of congregational efforts to make a positive difference wherever there is a need, locally, in urban Philadelphia, and around the world. Those interviewed were filled with joy and pride as a result of their service.
Upper Dublin feeds the hungry through several programs, and keeps a supply of frozen meals on hand for congregational families in crisis. The congregation resettles religiously diverse refugees, sponsors families in homelessness transition, sends care packages  and letters to deployed military staff, provides scholarships to Tanzanian students, has helped build and sustain a college in Tanzania that specializes in preparing Special Education teachers, sponsors community events to bring people together “without boundaries,” and encourages ecological stewardship. One of their programs provides beds for children in poverty, delivering 8 – 10 beds – with  bedding – weekly, with an annual goal of 500 per year. 

“During bed deliveries, volunteers often find children sharing sleeping bags on the floor, lying on mattresses with springs sticking out, and crowded onto sofas. … Each week, we deliver 8 to 10 beds, with bedding. Our goal is 500 new beds this year.” Upper Dublin and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church volunteers.

Both those who serve and those who are served report a significant impact on their lives due to the congregation’s spirit and efforts.  One leader said, “Feeding the homeless in Center City teaches us that the homeless are not objects of charity but people we can get to know and care about.” A high school youth wrote on her college application that her experiences with the congregation’s Appalachian Service Project trips were “life altering” because they convinced her that she could make a difference in the world. Men’s breakfasts with a nearby congregation are “breaking down the barriers of racism that separate us from our neighbors.”     

Involving children and youth makes most of the congregation’s projects intergenerational, and most of the projects involve personal interaction with the recipients of their aid. Upper Dublin sees these projects as an important form of leadership development for both youth and adults.  The congregation’s identity is that of a congregation that actively meets real needs in the real world, and that identity is helping the congregation grow – in numbers and in its impact as a Zone of Peace.

The Young Heroes Outreach Program of the National Liberty Museum 

Recognized by the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia as a Zone of Peace in December 2013.

Rowen School Young Heroes Learn Strategies for Change from the Civil Rights Movement

The National Liberty Museum, located at 321 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 19106 conducts a free outreach program in eleven schools each year. YHOP (Young Heroes Outreach Program) teaches the practice of freedom to elementary and middle school children. Each school provides a faculty advisor and coordinates the program with classroom teaching. In YHOP, freedom is taught as a community concept. Rather than focusing on individual entitlement, it teaches that freedom involves exercising agency and accepting responsibility.  Children in the program use their freedom to solve problems by applying initiative, critical thinking, research, and creativity in a collegial model.

YHOP begins in September and continues throughout the school year. The students first visit the Liberty Museum for a two hour tour and educational experience. Next, there are four in-school sessions conducted by the Museum’s outreach educators during the school day. The concept of freedom is studied (What violates it?  What expresses it?), along with the concept of ‘hero’, and protocols for expressing freedom through social action. When that is completed, the most interested students form a Young Heroes Club. Club members select a community action project to address a problem that concerns their school or community. Previous projects have included measures to resolve bullying, gun violence, unhealthy school lunches and teen pregnancy, just to name a few.

One faculty advisor said, “I have tracked teachers’ comments on the report cards of students who participated in YHOP, and children with behavioral and academic issues dramatically improve during the school year as a result of involvement.” Nick Ospa, NLM’s Manager of Outreach Education, added, “A key value is self-determination.  We prepare the students, train them, then let them actualize freedom by creating change where it is needed.” One of the educators added, “We make sure the students make their own decisions…. Getting that respect and affirmation from us changes them.”

Young Heroes work together to better their community.

In their formative years, Young Heroes are acquiring experience and solid techniques for taking civic responsibility.  They become confident and zealous agents of effective social action.  Each YHOP site becomes a de facto Zone of Peace. 

ZOP Coordinator's Comments

It is inspiring to interview nominated Zones of Peace. With my interview team, I am treated to an inside look at congregations and organizations working to “eliminate the causes of hatred” and “honor the dignity of all people,” finding “non-violent solutions” to the problems we face, and making homes and neighborhoods, our city and region, “free from fear, filled with respect, and marked by deeds of kindness.” (Quoted phrases are from A Call from People of Faith to Stop Violence.) The inspiration comes as I hear how individual lives are changed and that more and more people are motivated to be constructive community members. The inspiration grows as I become aware that so many in our region are involved in churches, synagogues, masjids, and community-based organizations devoted to practicing social virtues and deserving to be honored as Zones of Peace. Inspiration leads to hope that I want to share with those who feel they are isolated and hopelessly outnumbered in their struggles against violence and hatred.

Pay It Forward…
One day when I was a child visiting my grandparents, they received a visit from a leader in their congregation asking for a donation to the church. After writing his check, my grandfather said to me, “When you give, you must give three times: once for yourself, once for someone who won’t give, and once for someone who can’t give.” My grandfather’s philosophy of giving made a great impression on me.

- John Hougen, ZOP Coordinator

Each Zone of Peace is encouraged to “pay forward” the honor they have received from the Religious Leaders Council. The most important way to pay it forward is to continue the good work that led to recognition in the first place. But, there are ways to “pay it forward” that will strengthen the Zones of Peace initiative itself and help it mobilize more of the faith community in our region to reduce violence and create peace:
1. Nominate another congregation, school, or organization to be recognized as a Zone of Peace.
2. Offer to confer with or mentor another organization sharing ideas about how to become more effective in reducing violence and creating peace.
3. Offer to host an event, provide a new member for the Zones of Peace Steering Committee, volunteer to help with the media publicizing the work of Zones of Peace, or help with a Zones of Peace networking or continuing education event.
4. Give a financial donation before the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2014):
i. $100 will buy a banner for the next Zone of Peace (we need 10)
ii. $300 will allow you to be listed as a Zones of Peace Investor in our materials
iii. Any amount can be given toward a $2,000 goal for sponsoring a conference on bullying and its prevention.
iv. Any amount can be given towards a $5,000 goal to support the coordination of Zones of Peace interviews, meetings, networking, presentations, and continuing education.

You may designate your gift or allow us to spend it where most needed. Make checks payable to the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, earmarked for Zones of Peace + designation, if any, and send to the Interfaith Center, 4101 Freeland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19128.  Thank you.

Reception for Zones of Peace at Philly’s City Hall

Interfaith Center Executive Director Abby Stamelman Hocky and Zones of Peace Coordinator John Hougen at City Hall Reception

On Wednesday, November 20, from 5:30 – 7 PM, Conversation Hall at City Hall was filled with celebration. The Zones of Peace Mayor’s Reception was a resounding success. More than 150 guests from various Zones of Peace organizations attended the event which featured an address from Mayor Michael Nutter commending the recognized congregations and organizations from greater Philadelphia for their work creating and maintaining Zones of Peace. Five banners were presented by representatives of the Religious Leaders Council to recognized Zones of Peace organizations: The Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, Philadelphia Alliance Against Drugs and Violence, Earth’s Keepers, The First African Presbyterian Church, and Artwell. The whole evening had a celebratory feel, complete with beautiful cello and flute music provided by members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ambler, delicious food provided by Birchtree Catering, and delightful emceeing by Rev. Jay Broadnax. The Interfaith Center is thrilled to have had the opportunity to celebrate some of the work Zones of Peace does and looks forward to more events like this in the future."

Mayor Michael Nutter with Reception Guests, listening as Imam Anwar Muhaimin introduces him.

Emcee, Pastor Jay Broadnax, listens as Rev. James Poinsett of the Presbytery of Philadelphia presents a Zones of Peace Banner to the Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation.

Zones of Peace – January , 2014

Founding Members

  1. Monthly Meeting of Friends Of Philadelphia (Arch Street Friends Meeting)          
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day  Saints (South Philadelphia)
  3. The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
  4. St. John’s Lutheran Church, Melrose Park
  5. Mosque of Shaikh M.R. Bawa   Muhaiyaddeen
  6. Mt. Pisgah AME Church
  7. Institute for Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Chestnut Hill College
  8. Philadelphia Cathedral (Episcopal)
  9. Arab-American Development Corporation
  10. St. Francis de Sales School
  11. Grace Lutheran Church, Wyndmoor
  12. St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ambler
  13. Congregation Rodeph Shalom
  14. Tabernacle United Church
  15. Presbyterian Children’s Village
  16. Solid Rock United Methodist Church
  17. Wynnefield Baptist Church
  18. Heavenly Hall Church
  19. Wissahickon Faith Community Association
  20. Health Exposure and Longevity Project, Inc. 

Recognized Zones of Peace

  1. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (Lawncrest)
  2. Philadelphia Alliance Against Drugs and Violence
  3. Earth’s Keepers
  4. Reformed Church of the Ascension (Jeffersonville)
  5. Rhawnhurst Turning Point (Rhawnhurst   Presbyterian Church and Redemption Lutheran Churches)
  6. Anti-Defamation League: No Place for Hate
  7. West Kensington Ministry at Norris Square (Presbyterian)
  8. First African Presbyterian Church
  9. Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (A Governmental Agency)
  10. The Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation
  11. ArtWell (formerly Arts and Spirituality)
  12. Peace Day Philly
  13. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel  (Elkins Park)
  14. Upper Dublin Lutheran Church (Ambler)
  15. Young Heroes Program at the National Liberty Museum
  16. New Sanctuary Movement
  17. Beacon Ministries (Presbyterian)

Nominations in the Recognition Process

  1. Providence Center (Philadelphia)
  2. Urban Tree Connection
  3. Walking the Walk Program of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia 
  4. Common Place (a program of Wayne Presbyterian Church)
  5. Interfaith Housing Alliance (Lower Montgomery County)
  6. The National Museum of American Jewish History
  7. Stop the Violence, Stop the Madness (West Philadelphia)
  8. Calvin Presbyterian Church (West Philadelphia
  9. Weekend of Peace (PA Senator Anthony Williams)
  10. De La Salle in Towne
  11. Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School
  12. Heeding God's Call
  13. Mothers In Charge
  14. The George W. South Memorial Church of the Advocate

Zones of Peace is an initiative of the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia, seeking to build momentum among people of faith for creating peaceful neighborhoods and reducing violence throughout the region. Zones of Peace recognizes congregations and organizations doing exemplary work to further these goals, helps them network with one another, and provides continuing education to help them in their missions.

Religious Leaders Council- The Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia was founded in Spring 2006 to build relationships of mutual support, offer a moral and spiritual voice in the region, and identify issues of concern for dialogue and action. Co-convened by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Rabbi David Straus, Imam Anwar Muhaimin, and Bishop Claire Schenot Burkat, the Council is the first of its kind in the city, with more than 30 member communities, representing more than two million people of diverse faith traditions from across the greater Philadelphia region.

Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia- The Interfaith Center’s mission is to advance mutual trust, understanding, and cooperation among faith communities, in order to work together for the common good of the region. Through engagement with youth and adults in Philadelphia communities, congregations, schools, organizations and in the private sector, the Interfaith Center enables people of all backgrounds to share their deepest convictions, shape solutions to common problems, and live out their highest values and aspirations.