This month, we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and commemorate his legacy by doing service work. Although the civil rights movement Dr. King championed was ultimately effective, many would argue the fight against racism and intolerance is far from over.
According to TIME magazine, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other civil rights groups, there has been a dramatic rise in the increase of hate groups and militias in the past few years. Controversial immigration laws that passed in Arizona and Alabama continue to make headline and have created heated debates on issues of racial profiling. It seems as though everywhere we look, we can see flags of racism, intolerance and misunderstanding. But, pockets of tolerance and understanding do exist and one such place is our international summer camp in Virginia.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, Global Youth Village stands out as a place where racism and intolerance are openly discussed. These difficult and complex topics often come up during our peace building and dialogue workshops where young people are encouraged to confront their own stereotypes or racist attitudes; they are then equipped with the tools to constructively address their issues.
After being forced by the Serbs to flee his home in Kosovo in 1999, alum Kreshe Kacaniku P’03 says, “I had a lot of prejudice towards certain people groups before I came to GYV, but I changed. At GYV, I learned not to hate, not to be prejudiced. ” During the past 33 years, Global Youth Village has trained young people from conflict-ridden countries like Cambodia, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, and Ireland and provided them with tools to become more conscious, tolerant and compassionate peace builders.
Most recently in our 2012 program, the stereotypes that lead to ignorance, intolerance and racism were shattered once again. Participant Lourd Chechman said, “The most important thing I’ve learned at GYV is to listen to and try to understand the opinions of others. This is the first step towards achieving peace. ”
Against the backdrop of an increasingly intolerant world, Global Youth Village continues to be place that creates common ground among people of different backgrounds. The program demonstrates that universal human values such as peace, justice, tolerance and understanding can be a reality. Our 2013 programs hope to continue this legacy.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
— Martin Luther King, Jr