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UMTV: Teaching Teens Tolerance


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Thirteen years after 9/11, headlines still feature acts of violence allegedly committed in the name of faith. A group of teens may have found a new way to foster understanding and respect between people of different religious backgrounds. Heidi Robinson shows us a summer camp that welcomes all faiths.


(Locator: West Jefferson, North Carolina)

(Kids shout while playing basketball)

It almost sounds like any camp...

(Noises in dining hall)

in the North Carolina mountains.

Muslim call to prayer: "Allah, Allah."

But at Elk Shoals United Methodist Camp, the prayers of three world faiths:


(People say Muslim prayer)


(Boy prays) "Lord... I just want to thank you."

as well as Jewish,

(Kids pray) "Thank you."

create a unique learning experience for teens called American Interfaith Camp.

Mohammed Medani, Muslim-American Camper: "I'm about to perform ablution and that's just a cleaning process for preparing for prayer."

where campers learn about other traditions...

Mohammed Medani: "So I'm going to say Abdul-Abraham and wash my hands three times."

...and also have fun together.

(Boys picking blackberries) "They're actually tasty!"

Twenty-nine boys, from the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian territories, spend time with each other away from the tensions that boundaries can bring.

Hamzeh Adas, Palestinian Camper: "We believe in one God."

Sharon Levit, Israeli Camper: "I wish that like the kids can come to be friends. Like the adults."

Camp leader: "The goal today is to get every group member up and across the wall."

Z.J., a Jewish teen, finds support&ellipsis;

(Kids lift boy over wall) "You think I'll let you fall?"

"Come on Z.J.!"

"Z.J.&ellipsis; you think I'd let you fall?"

"I won't let you fall Z.J.!"

"Pull him up, pull him up!"

"All right, Z.J.!"

as he reaches for the hands of his new Muslim friend, Daniel.

Z.J. Gamlin, Jewish-American Camper: "It means that they are my friend and they help me and they like me. We both have trust in each other."

The first interfaith camp was held the summer after 9/11. Camp director Peter Parish saw it as a way to move forward.

The Rev. Peter Parish, American Interfaith Camp Director: "I hope they all go on to be community, civic leaders, even world leaders."

Campers: "Let's hear it for teamwork!"

Z.J. Gamlin, Jewish-American Camper: "If the world had trust, it would change the world forever."


In some years, corporate sponsors have paid the airfare for the children and counselors from Israel and the Palestinian territories to attend camp. 

For more information, visit the Camp Elk Shoals website or call 336-877-4607.

Posted: September 10, 2009