VIDEO: Basketball stars help spread seeds of peace
WCSH (NBC/Portland)

OTISFIELD, Maine | The game of basketball can unite people from all different places and backgrounds. That’s why, for the last 15 years, the Seeds of Peace Camp has been using the sport to strengthen relationships between its kids from all over the world, especially the Middle East.

On Wednesday, current and former basketball stars, including former Celtics Dave Cowens and Brian Scalabrine, headed to extend the camp’s message of acceptance and understanding to the court.

It may not seem like passes and layups are making an much of an impact, but the stars say the campers actions and attitudes are inspiring.

This session of Seeds of Peace Camp has 129 campers international campers, primarily from the Middle East. The camps works to create an open dialogue among teens with differing backgrounds to help create a more peaceful world.

Watch Jessica Gagne’s report at »

Basketball Hall of Famers help nurture Seeds of Peace
Lewiston Sun Journal

OTISFIELD — Never doubt the power of layup drills, nor their ability to change the world.

Basketball Hall of Famers Dave Cowens and Teresa Johnson, current NBA players Tobias Harris and Matt Bonner and 2008 NBA champion Brian Scalabrine were among a handful of current and former professional basketball players and coaches participating in the Play for Peace clinic for 159 Seeds of Peace campers Wednesday.

Read the rest of Lee Horton’s article and view Andree Kehn’s photos at the Lewiston Sun Journal »

Scholar: Maine’s Muslim History Goes Way Deeper Than Somali Refugees

As the nation’s attention shifts to the city of Cleveland and the Republican National Convention, the party’s presumptive nominee is adding some new detail to his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

In an interview on the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” Donald Trump says he would order what he calls “extreme vetting” of Muslims from territories with a history of terrorist activity.

This is the first in a series of profiles of Muslims who have made Maine their home.

Listen to Maine Seed Abukar Adan’s report at »


Pakistani Seeds organize ‘Better Understanding For A Better World’ camp

LAHORE | Twenty Pakistani Seeds and two Seeds of Peace Educators organized a three-day camp for 55 Pakistani students from different religions and regions of Pakistan.

Seeds of Peace Pakistan partnered with Foreman Christian College and the Pakistan-US Alumni Network to host the July 14-16 event, which was supported by the United States Consulate in Lahore.

The Seeds took the lead in organizing the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Sikh campers into four dialogue groups and facilitated discussions about religion and interprovincial stereotypes.

The participants also had a chance to visit a church, mosque, and Hindu temple and learn about the practices of different religions. On the camp’s second day, they toured the walled city of Lahore and were introduced to the area’s history of religious diversity.

“I was never introduced to any Hindu in my life, but today I met them,” said Dua, camper from Lahore. They are humans like us. I was told they are different but I don’t see any difference.”

Hoops stars to host 14th Annual Play for Peace clinic

OTISFIELD, MAINE | On July 20, professional basketball players will join 159 Seeds of Peace campers from the Middle East on their journey to overcome legacies of conflict and courageously engage each other as a first step to creating change.

During the 14th Annual Play for Peace clinic, these young campers will get a break from their intense daily dialogue encounters and learn teamwork and hoops skills from some of the best basketball players and minds in the game, including Teresa Edwards, the Basketball Hall of Famer and five-time Olympic medalist, Boston Celtics legend and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dave Cowens, Tobias Harris of the Detroit Pistons, two-time NBA Champion Matt Bonner (San Antonio Spurs), Luke Bonner (UMass), Jake Cohen (Aris Thessaloniki).

NBA Champion Brian Scalabrine (Boston Celtics) will be making his record 12th Play for Peace appearance. Joining him is Darren Erman, a former Seeds of Peace counselor, Celtics assistant coach, and current New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach.

A visit from world-class athletes and coaches will bring renewed energy to Camp as the players demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills on and off the field. The visitors will also learn more about our campers and the challenges they face as they work for change.

This is the 14th year that Play for Peace has been organized by Seeds of Peace board member and former sports agent Arn Tellem, who now heads the Detroit Pistons front office.

Seeds of Peace inspires and cultivates new generations of leaders in communities divided by conflict. We equip them with the skills and relationships they need to accelerate social, economic, and political changes essential for peace.

Planting Seeds of Peace in Miami
Miami Herald

Seeds of Peace bridges cultural divisions between teens from Middle East and U.S. at summer camp in Maine

Miami-raised former counselor organizing first Miami events to support the group

Leaders say Seeds’ efforts more important than ever at time of heightened division in U.S. and beyond

At a time when social division and turmoil are rising in the United States, a summer camp that bridges seemingly intractable divisions between teens of different religions and races has become newly relevant.

Called Seeds of Peace, it is a program in Maine that has brought together young Israelis and Palestinians, as well as teenagers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, the Balkans and the United States, for 23 years.

This summer, Seeds of Peace is expanding its U.S. program to add teens from Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City to those it has long hosted from Maine and upstate New York, aiming to inculcate empathy and understanding as the country struggles with cultural and political discord that seems more bitter than anything seen here in decades.

Read the rest of Jordan Levin’s article at the Miami Herald »

Ray of hope in our dark tunnel of violence
Huffington Post

OTISFIELD, MAINE | At water’s edge of the aptly-named Pleasant Lake in Otisfield, Maine, about an hour outside Portland, I found a refreshing cause for optimism — a respite from our wearisome ordeal of witnessing repeated eruptions of hatred and heartless violence.

The idyllic scene in Maine is the Seeds of Peace summer camp, where hundreds of teenagers from some of the world’s most bitterly polarized conflict regions, including the Middle East and South Asia, converge each year for a remarkable experience.

They meet kids from “the other side” for the first time. They take the risk of crossing lines of ethnicity, nationality and religion. They begin a tentative dance of getting to know each other (all campers are asked to speak English, the one language they have in common). They play on the same sports teams, they eat at the same tables, they swim and boat in the same sparkling lake and they sleep calmly in integrated bunks.

For the latest episode of our Humankind public radio documentary project The Power of Nonviolence released this summer (you can hear Part 5, our segment on the camp, now available online), I paid a visit to Seeds of Peace.

It’s a kind of magical setting, where the normal rules of hostility, the entrenched histories of resentment and revenge, the reflexive stereotypes of the enemy are suspended for a moment of time in the sun.

It’s a place, maybe the only kind of place, where a future of peace based on trying to understand and listen to an “adversary” might be built, where someone else from a different group might become your personal friend.

As one young male camper told me: “It’s really amazing what we’re doing here. I mean, where else in the world are you going to get Israelis and Palestinians sitting in a room together? And just to have that dialogue, and then afterwards to go out and play soccer together, and do activities. At the end of the day what you realize is that we’re not so different – the same interests, the same coming of age struggles. And it’s our future. You know, our parents, and their generations before them didn’t get things right. So it’s our turn to get things right. It’s our future, and it’s what we make of it.”

It’s not all tension-free, though. The kids are grounded by attending regular, structured dialogue groups. In one session, the day before my visit, they asked each other how terrorism had affected their lives.

The first camper, recalled Lulu Perault, a conflict mediatior who was present, “shared a story about being kidnapped by the Taliban, and how difficult it was, at the age of eight, to be alone in a room for two weeks, and not knowing what happened to him. And so this kind of created a cascade of participation. All the kids shared their experiences with terrorism, and violence. And so by the end of our session yesterday, kids from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and America were hugging each other, and crying, and left feeling quite connected. So they come, they sit down, they see each other. They realize they’re only human, that they have the same challenges, the same joys.”

I don’t know what’s more amazing — that the kids enter this wondrous zone of truce or that, to comply with camp rules, they actually put down their cell phones and abandon internet access for the full month they’re at Seeds of Peace. Isolating the campers from the information crossfire online gives them all a chance to reflect on the power of information, both electronic and print, in the hyper-mediated culture they’re being raised in.

“Sadly, people are not going to question what is said in a textbook,” commented Phiroze Parasnis, a poised, intelligent 16-year-old from Mumbai, India. “Who makes the history textbooks? Essential facts are taken out. So many facts are changed. And I’m not only blaming my country, I’m blaming all the countries for this. And, I mean, it’s so shocking when you say, ‘Oh, my God. Is that the way this event is portrayed in your country?’ You wonder like, who controls what we believe is true?”

A common complaint from the campers on all sides was that the local media culture, often influenced by governments, spreads propaganda whose effect is to fan the flames of discord. And this echoed an insight by Bobbie Gottschalk, who in 1993 co-founded Seeds of Peace (with the late John Wallach).

She harkened to her experience as a 20-year-old student at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana. It was in 1962, the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States. Bobbie and other students had accompanied a professor for a field trip to Russia, where they would break down barriers and get to know Soviet kids of the same age — a daring project at the height of the Cold War.

“Well,” Bobbie told me in an interview, “it taught me that people are people, and although their governments make pronouncements and threats against other people, the people living in the country are just the same as us, and just as vulnerable to being threatened, and to being made fearful as us. So we actually had a lot in common…

“And the other thing I realized while I was there was it was very handy for the government to have an enemy, because so many troublesome things were going on in that country, but it took the focus away from that, and put it all the way across the world to an enemy.

“And I wondered if the same was true for the United States, at that time.”

Read David Freudberg’s article on The Huffington Post »


August 3, 2016 | Camp Session 2 (Maine)

The second session of the Seeds of Peace Camp will bring together campers from Maine, Syracuse, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.

ADDRESS: 183 Powhatan Road, Otisfield, Maine
DATE: August 3, 2016
TIME: August 3–16
LOCATION: Seeds of Peace Camp