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Grants fund dreams for peace around the globe

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

Akim Werkpewolo (center) enjoys playing games at an interim care center for former child soldiers in Virginia, Liberia.

May 17, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The most vulnerable people in Liberia are small, young and defenseless.

The West African country is trying to recover from 14 years of a bloody civil war that was often fought on the backs of children. The Peace Builder Children’s Club is the dream of a United Methodist missioner to change ex-combatant children into “bearers of good tidings of peace.”

“These children, who have been soldiers, they know the things they’ve done, and they worry that they will not be accepted back into society,” says Frido N. Kinkolenge, a North Carolina-supported missioner in Liberia. A $5,000 grant from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society will help make the Peace Builder Children’s Club a reality.

“Boys and girls as young as 10 have been recruited by force by different belligerent powers to fight,” says Kinkolenge. “They were fed drugs, taught murder and (they) murdered by utilizing hacking machetes. Children were used as channels for carrying out hatred across Liberia.”

The club will be for children ages 14-16. They will learn to work with their peers in United Methodist churches, United Methodist schools and communities in Grand Bassa, Rivercess and Sinoe counties and the Morweh circuit. The children will receive education about peace, reconciliation and forgiveness through seminars and workshops, Kinkolenge says in his request for the grant. The grant will also provide training for 200 people to work with the children in the different counties and circuit.

Peace Builder Children’s Club is one of 15 Peace with Justice Grants totaling $49,500 approved at the spring meeting of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

The funding comes from a churchwide offering taken on Peace with Justice Sunday, which falls on June 11 this year.

Grants for 2006:

  • Partners in Justice For Peace, Grand Rapids (Mich.) District Peace with Justice Community and Female Light Production for All Occasions Partnership ($5,000). FELIPRO will implement a business-cooperative model in which women are all owners learning to produce marketable embroidered art for local, tourist and international markets. The partnership will result in an art and training center.

  • United Methodist Action for Justice and Peace in Central Congo, West Congo Annual Conference ($5,000). The grant will help train 100 election observers in each annual conference and inform people about democratic values for the upcoming national election process.

  • Lost Boys: Found! A Time of Reunion, Vision, Advocacy and Hope, Crossroads United Methodist Church, Ashburn, Va. ($5,000). Five “Lost Boys of Sudan” have partnered with Crossroads United Methodist Church to plan a reunion of lost boys who have resettled in the United States. Lost Boys: Found! will be held at George Mason University July 7-8 and will draw attention to the current conditions in Southern Sudan.

  • LINK: Click to open full size version of image
    A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

    Philip Karhan stands in the doorway of his house in Virginia, Liberia, which he shares with three other former child soldiers.
  • International Interfaith Accompaniment Program to Facilitate the Truth and Reconciliation Process in Liberia, Manhattan District, New York, and United Methodist Church, Liberia ($5,000). The program will serve as a visible expression of solidarity with those seeking reconciliation and peace. Religious leaders will be paired with members of the international faith community to cultivate community-wide affirmation for people who want to testify before the commission. The religious leaders will accompany those testifying and will prepare the community for receiving back their “neighbors.” The program will also provide spiritual support to the commissioners as they endure the daily burden of hearing of the atrocities and the inhumane experiences of the witnesses.

  • Skyline Urban Ministries, Oklahoma Area ($4,000). The grant will be used for a Peace Challenge Camp for fifth- and sixth-graders that will push the possibility of forgiveness in creating a culture of peace. Topics at the camp will include the causes of hatred, prejudice and tolerance, forgiveness and the qualities of heroism.

  • The Micah Project, First United Methodist Church, Tacoma, Wash. ($4,000). The grant will support staff during a 12-month timeline for organizing an anti-poverty summit; help coordinate a living wage campaign; manage the expansion of the church’s fair trade store; and work on long-term sustainability, including financial networks.

  • Youthbridge Peace Education Expansion Project, Marvin United Methodist Church, Tyler, Texas ($4,000). Seven new teachers will be trained for the expansion of a peace education program that teaches peace building during a year-round program in Vukovar, Croatia. The program had its beginning at Marvin United Methodist Church in 2001. More than 500 teenagers have gone through it, and the goal is to reach one-fifth of the approximately 3,000 teens in the area by the end of 2007 and to maintain that ratio.

  • Student and Youth Participation in Conference on Theology of Peace, Methodists United for Peace With Justice ($2,500). Methodists United for Peace with Justice, a national association of laity and clergy, and Temple United Methodist Church, San Francisco, will bring at least 30 diverse students and young people from all five United Methodist U.S. jurisdictions together to draw upon the Wesleyan tradition of “holy conferencing.”

  • Pilgrimage of Peace to the Holy Land, the Holy People, Southwest Texas Conference ($2,000). Peace with justice coordinators and participants of other faiths will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan to gain an understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its impact on neighboring countries and the possibilities for peacemaking.

  • Urban Renewal/Ministries Project, Jefferson United Methodist Church, Goldsboro, N.C. ($2,000). This project is reaching out to the community by offering various programs geared toward restoring physical, mental and spiritual wholeness including quarterly fun day activities for children and their families; weekly reading and math club for at risk children and Fit For God, a weekly fitness class held at the church.

  • The Lighthouse, a United Methodist Community Center, in Louisville, Ky. ($2,000). The grant will be used to help pay the fees for a child psychologist who will work with children scarred from abuse.

  • Just Lead, Lennon-Senney United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tenn. ($2,000). The grant will help the church expand after school and church ministry to three days a week with student and family relational activities. The church hopes to reach 60 elementary, middle and high school youth.

  • Justice for Our Neighbors, North Texas Conference, ($2,000). This is an immigration legal counseling clinic serving low-income immigrants in the Dallas metro and surrounding area. The funds will be used to support an immigration attorney’s salary and benefits and fund two “Know Your Rights” workshops.

  • A special grant was made to the American Indian Alliance for $500.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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