The Children's Peace Project held at St. Mary Parish in Chelsea, Michigan, last summer was recently awarded the International Youth Activity Award by the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus.
On August 8, 2012, the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic benefit society in the world, recognized the vision and excellence of its Chelsea Michigan Council, which sponsored the HCEF Children's Peace Project–the 4-week visit of 5 Palestinian students and their chaperone in the summer of 2011. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson conferred the only award for international impact from the Knights of Columbus at the 130th Supreme Convention in Anaheim, California. The award was accepted on behalf of the Chelsea Council by past Grand Knight Owen Ballow, who was also a host father for one of the Palestinian Students.
The Children's Peace Project (CPP), aims to create bridges of understanding between Palestinian children and American children, communities and parishes. The Palestinian CPP students and their teacher came from Bethlehem with an innocent message whose purpose is to plant seeds of peace and to build relationships between these children and their American host families and community.
Owen Ballow's wife, Julie Ballow, explained on the occasion of the award: "As a result of this project, our families and our parish developed a long-term relationship with the Christians and Catholics in the Holy Land, and we look forward to continuing to support them in the future."
This month, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, visited Indianapolis. The Chelsea, Michigan Council of the Knights of Columbus took the opportunity to present him with a book commemorating the CPP experience. This is a symbol of appreciation of the patriarchate's children who visited to build bridges of peace and understanding.
Father Turner of St. Mary Parish insists "It is still important to connect with the descendants of Jesus' time. To see the world as we are seen by others. The Christians in the Holy Land are diminishing in numbers, as the Israelis continue to hem them in and restrict their movements…but we have created a bridge for them. They know that we are willing to support them and their various projects, livelihood, and works. Our people came to better understand their plight as a people under occupation, and unable to live in dignity."
The Palestinian children and their American host families at the farewell celebration with Sir Rateb Rabie, President/CEO of HCEF, and Rev. Dr. William Turner, Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Chelsea, Michigan.