Skip to comments.International team Teaches Kids to Uphold Diversity (Catholic Kumbya Alert)
Posted on 12/17/2002 9:39:05 PM PST by Coleus
International team teaches kids to uphold diversity Tuesday, December 17, 2002
By CHARLES AUSTIN Staff Writer
The Embracing Cultures Project presenting its multimedia message to young people Sunday at St. Mary\\\'s Church in Pompton Lakes. (CARMINE GALASSO/THE RECORD)
The vivacious young woman told a rapt audience of grade-schoolers how she carries seven pieces of shrapnel in her legs - fragments of a bomb that exploded near her home in Sarajevo when she was 12 years old.
But for Nadja Halilbegovich, it's not what she carries in her legs, but what she carries in her heart that enables her to smile sweetly, sing passionately, and proclaim her hopes for a peaceful future.
Halilbegovich, 23, is part of an international team traveling the United States teaching children how they can promote peace, embrace diverse traditions, and - in the young Bosnian woman's words - "live in a culture of peace, rather than one of race, ethnicity, or nationalism."
"If I continued to hate those who wounded me and killed members of my family," she said, "there would only be more wounds for all of us."
The Embracing Cultures Project is affiliated with Kids Can Free the Children, a Canada-based organization championing the rights of children worldwide. Ed Gillis, another member of the team, said the organization had been looking for a way to help children accept cultural diversity and work for peace. "After the attacks of Sept. 11, we knew we had to get this going," he said.
A philanthropic grant is paying for a 100-stop road tour around the United States and Canada, where the Embracing Cultures team stages a multimedia presentation in schools, churches, and community centers.
They came to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church here on Sunday because youth leader Matt Hirsch had already connected the parish's teenagers to the Canadian organization. "We are very blessed to be able to hear what our friends have to say," he said, introducing the team to nearly 500 students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
The message was graphic. A video showed the attack on the World Trade Center, fighting in southern Sudan, a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning, children fleeing combat in the Middle East, civil strife in Africa, and other world trouble spots. All this horror, the team said, comes when people cannot accept one another. Hope and peace comes, said Gillis, "when we can let the true human spirit shine through."
Halilbegovich, who came to the United States to train as an actress and singer, told of her experiences during the 3½ years of the Bosnian war, living in the basement of an apartment building, fearing for her family's lives each time they had to go outside, receiving her wounds, and escaping the combat in Sarajevo by crawling through a muddy tunnel.
Team member Anitra Sumbry, a 19-year old from Aurora, Ill., has experienced the pain of racial strife and discrimination in the United States. "But it can happen anywhere," she said, telling of threatening phone calls she received when she was living in Toronto, Ontario, in a well-to-do neighborhood that prides itself on tolerance.
The team urged the youth to go beyond "tolerance" or merely accepting other cultures and asked them to intentionally "embrace" cultural diversity. Gillis told the Pompton Lakes audience that like most of them, he had been the beneficiary of intolerance, reaping benefits of being a white North American. Working in poor villages in Honduras, he said, he found that people welcomed him much more readily than people from that land were being welcomed north of the United States border.
In addition to addressing global issues and profound social problems, the Embracing Cultures team chanted a three-part mantra asking the members of their audience to "Be open; take a stand; and take action" in their own lives.
"Look at the small things around you," said Sumbry, "because these big problems have to be broken down into small steps." Children should seek multicultural experiences, she said, sharing their traditions with others and inviting others to their special festivities. "Taking a stand means that you speak up when someone says something hurtful," she said, "Or when someone is being put down because they belong to a certain group, you need to object."
It should not be hard for young people to find a cause and work together with others to solve problems, Gillis said. "It's through action that we build a diverse community," he said. "We can do it because we are young," he said. "We are the generation the world has been waiting for."
The team's presentation closed with video clips of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. The children later went to the church basement to make banners and posters expressing their concerns for peace, which will be delivered to the United Nations.
There were numerous dramatic moments in the hour-long presentation. Halilbegovich, her head covered by a shawl, recited the story of a 10-year-old girl who saw her parents die in the ethnically charged war. Her own diary of the war years has been published in Europe, where she is being called the "Bosnian Anne Frank."
"I think this really touched me," said 12-year-old Mike Atkinson after the presentation. "It taught me some stuff."
For Sister Ellen Byrnes, who oversees the religious education program for the children of St. Mary's, "this was a time to plant some seeds in the students who may want to look at things around them differently now."
Charles Austin's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I guess I have to feel guilty of my Race and ethnicity and from being an USA citizen. The war with Iraq is out of the question.
When I was a kid, I was taught that we were all the same and equal, now they tell students that we are all different. Why did they end the lecture with Pagan Gandhi and Protestant MLK and not the Pope? And a chant!! And of course, they ended with posters for the Communist (anti-God) Front, the United Nations.
This parish is the most liberal in the Diocese, it is also the largest. They took out the kneelers in church and many members belong to VOTF where they hold meetings at the church. You never hear of this church addressing abortion, school choice or vouchers. It's always the death penalty, immigrants and tolerance.
This is the old reparations riff - the white man is doing well because of all the contributions from the black slaves of 220 to 140 years ago. The white devil slave masters are today still reaping the fruits of those long gone labours.
On the acceptance of diversity, the Catholic Church has been very receptive to the infusion of pederastic gay priests in its ranks. Therefore, lets indiscriminately accept all cultures and faiths as equal, and probably better, than our own. That way, like the Catholic Church, we can feel the love of all those who appreciate our munificence; like Europe, Arabia, Africa, and Serbia.
There is no better example of a society reaping the whirlwind of immoral acceptance of deviancy than that of the Catholic Church. Indeed, there is a message here...
Why? At least if a public school in my area is spreading liberalism like this, I have some recourse - I can go to the principal, the superintendent, and ultimately the school board if necessary to get it stopped. If the school board doesn't respond, I can run for school board myself, and can encourage my friends to vote for me, and/or run themselves in a coalition.
None of this recourse is available to parochial school parents. Their school boards are usually appointed by the priest or at best are selected from members within the parish. They are ultimately not accountable even to parish members (just ask Catholic parents who are now homeschooling because their parish schools are too liberal.)
Enabling this system even further with tax money is a bad idea.
I agree that the politics of race and social degeneracy have made inner-city urban schools basically inaccessible for most whites.
I live in a suburb outside of St. Louis, and while I wouldn't send a dog to the St. Louis inner city schools, curiously both the Bosnian and Asian immigrants' kids tend to do very well there - even in the same high schools labelled as "failing" by the local paper & just about everyone.
Personally, while I do see that it's the state's job to provide public education (at minimum for the poor), I don't see that it's the state's job to provide support for religious private schools (which are really the only ones that a voucher would even come near to paying for, since non-religious private schools charge in the five figures, mostly.)
I agree that for many parents, homeschooling is not an option.
The middle-class is not going to see *any* relief in this department. Vouchers are going to be for the poor, period. What would be better than vouchers would be, let's say, a "double" tax deduction for contributions made to inner-city parochial school tuition scholarship funds. So if you donated $500 a year, you would treat that $500/year donation as an effective $1000 on Schedule A. Thus those who want to contribute to struggling parochial schools in the inner cities could do so.
Speak for yourself. Oh, and you might want to work on the humility.
Gillis told the Pompton Lakes audience that like most of them, he had been the beneficiary of intolerance, reaping benefits of being a white North American. Working in poor villages in Honduras, he said, he found that people welcomed him much more readily than people from that land were being welcomed north of the United States border.
Somehow they manage to tie all the hatred and wrongdoing in the world to white Euro-descendants. Amazing. (note to Mr. Gills: maybe those poor villages accepted you because you were bringing something to them, not just sponging off the fruits of their labor?)