From July 6 to 26 Caritas Salzburg/Austria in close collaboration with Caritas Lebanon has organised the meanwhile sixth international peace camp for needy children and youth from the entire Middle East. This camp is just one of several projects with the focus "peace and reconciliation” of Caritas Salzburg, who is coordinating all Caritas Austria Middle East relief projects. The camp shall contribute to the understanding among peoples, to help to reduce prejudice and to eliminate pre-conceived ideas, to strengthen mutual respect and tolerance, to arouse interest for other religions and cultures and finally to enable socially deprived children to benefit from real vacations.
This project takes place in another country of the region each year and each year a new nation is involved. The 97 participants of this year’s camp aged 10 to 14, coming from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan as well as Yemen, were - together with their counsellors - excellently hosted at St. Joseph Technical School of the Lazarist near Bikfaya up in the Lebanese mountains. Caritas Salzburg has been financially supporting this school for many years.
The children who were chosen by Caritas Salzburg’s local project partners in the respective countries for participation belonged to 12 different religious denominations. Two third of the participating children were girls in order to counteract the widespread preference of boys in the region. All children involved are unprivileged: orphans, refugees or street children as well as social cases. Many of them have never been in a restaurant or in a swimming pool before this camp.
Prepared with much enthusiasm and commitment, national evenings with traditional dances, songs and national dishes of the respective countries, were a perfect opportunity to become better acquainted with the different traditions and cultures of the Middle East. The best pieces of all national evenings were performed in front of a big public during an "international evening” at the end of the camp. Various excursions to Lebanon’s tourist sites enabled the children to learn more about their host country.
For the first time a consultant for peace and conflict resolution from the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Reconciliation at Burg Schlaining could be enlisted to join the camp for one week in order to intensely work with the kids on the topic "peace and reconciliation”.
Who could witness the tearful good-bye scenes at the end of the camp will know that the targets of the project have surely been achieved.
The concept and character of this project is unique throughout the whole Middle East, therefore numerous other organisations from the international Caritas network have shown lively interest. Caritas Internationalis/Vatican, as well as the Caritas organisations from Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Luxemburg and the US financially contributed to this year’s camp.
"They asked me about my impressions and what I mostly liked in the camp. So, I was overwhelmed with joy and I stated the following:
I liked many issues in this camp but especially: meeting new friends, dedicated monitors who are cooperating together without any discrimination based on race, sex or religion (Christian or Muslim). I also enjoyed visiting tourist sites in Saida, Baalbek, Byblos, the Cedars, the National Museum, the Soap Museum and the Water Parks such as Rio Lento and Waves.
I learned throughout this camp to respect different religions and opinions. I was able to act and communicate equally between Christians and Muslim and without any discrimination of race or sex. In the contrary, love and fraternity should rule our relationships. Above all, I learned not to embarrass anyone by asking him about his religion.
On the other hand, I enjoyed all the activities organized by Mrs. Ibtissam such as games and handicrafts etc.
Finally, I will never forget Mr. Stefan, who was trying to bring joy and peace to all children and his wish was fulfilled. I was thrilled that he filled my heart and the heart of others with this spirit. I hope that peace and love will be spread all over the world."
"It is the first time I participate in a summer camp. I was overwhelmed with joy when I was chosen to be a participant of the Caritas Internationalis camp, regrouping children from different religions and nationalities.
I liked everything in the camp, such as discipline, organization and cooperation between the members. The outings during the camp were educational and everyone liked it. We visited the tourist sites of Lebanon, discovered the Lebanese culture and the civilizations that have left their marks in Lebanon through the years.
We learned more about the traditions and customs of each country participating in this camp throughout the national evenings.
Moreover, this experience gave me the opportunity to meet new friends from different countries such as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
I learned from Caritas Internationalis Camp to cooperate and share peace with other."
"This is the second time I take part in a Caritas Camp. I liked many of its aspects, such as the national evenings and the excursions that introduced us to Lebanon better.
Being in teams has contributed to meet new friends whom we loved and considered as friends and as members of one big family, which made me want to participate once again to meet my family again.
I really liked our appeal for Peace and the ending of wars taking place in our region.
I wish to thank all the supervisors, social workers and sisters who organized the camp, and to thank more particularly Father Ziad Haddad who made it possible for Caritas to hold its annual summer camp at the St. Joseph Technical School in Bhersaf.
Naturally, I extend my thanks to Caritas and especially to Mr. Stefan Maier and Ms. Ibtissam for supervising the camp. I also wish to thank Ms. Enas, my supervisor, who has been like an older sister to me, and made me feel that my team was not merely composed of individuals, but that it is my family who loves and respects me."
It is not my first experience in a camp. But this time I was very much exited to participate in the Caritas Internationalis Camp and enjoyed each moment of the camp.
I enjoyed the activities of the camp. I mostly liked the handicrafts and drawing. We also visited tourist sites in Baalbek, Saida and the forest of Cedars; we collected information about each site and learned more about Lebanon’s culture and traditions.
I learned throughout this camp to act and communicate with love and build peace around me. I met new friends from different nationalities and we lived with each other’s like brothers, wishing that our friendship will last forever.
Finally, I express my gratitude to each person of the camp team who was trying to bring joy and peace into our heart. I wish to participate in similar camps of Caritas Internationalis in the future.
"I participated in many summer camps, but this time I was very impressed to participate in an exceptional and unique event.
I learned a lot throughout this camp: I met new friends from different religions and nationalities.
I admired the care and love of each member, especially from the monitors and organizers; they were very supportive and protective.
I lived three weeks of love, within an organized family, whose aim is peace and love; an atmosphere of peace and harmony was surrounding the place helping us to defeat our differences.
At the beginning I was a little bit shy; I found it difficult to communicate with monitors and participants from other countries. But after a while, we broke the ice and discovered more about each other’s, so the communication became easier.
Concerning the activities of camp, I found it very exceptional, entertaining and educational. We visited the tourist sites in Byblos, Baalbek, and the Cedars forest, "Symbol of Lebanon”.
On the other hand, the sessions and subjects that we talked about have contributed to build peace in our hearts.
It is an honor for me to participate a second time to a similar international camp, where I can learn more about different cultures and traditions.
I express my gratitude to each person who has collaborated in organizing this successful camp. And special thanks to Caritas for this unique event."
"It is the first time, I participate in an international camp and I liked it very much. I was pleased sharing responsibilities with our supervisor, and enjoying every moment in this camp.
I discovered the beauty of Lebanon by visiting its tourist sites as Saida, Byblos, the Cedars, Baalbek, the Soap museum etc… I finally got the opportunity to discover what I always heard about Lebanon and its patrimony. We went also to seaside resorts.
In addition I learned a lot from handicrafts such as decoration.
In the beginning, I found it difficult to communicate with participants from other countries. But after a while, we broke the ice and discovered more about each other’s, so the communication became easier. I will never forget this exciting trip to Lebanon and I will share this experience with my parents and friends in Egypt.
I learned songs and developed my talents. The theme of the camp is "Peace is everywhere” and I lived this peace with everybody throughout the camp."