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Sowing the seeds of peace

August 29, 2007
Reportage: Krishna Kumar and Matthew Schneeberger. Photographs: Dominic Xavier

With the echoes of the bomb blasts still ringing out on the streets of Hyderabad, 13 teenagers from Mumbai laid out a future of tolerance, peace and understanding on Monday.

In front of an intimate crowd of journalists and onlookers, they discussed their participation in the three week-long Seeds of Peace camp in Maine, USA, this summer.

Seeds of Peace, a US-based non-governmental organisation, works with youth from conflict-ridden regions -- India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, for instance -- and aims to impart the skills required for acceptance and coexistence.

"Once you scratch the surface and look a little deeper, you find prejudice in every sector of society. We are working to combat this. The best place to start is with the leaders of tomorrow," said Ferzan Mehta, co-ordinator for the Indian programme since its inception in 2001.

The Indian delegation, comprising nine high school students, two students peers and two delegation leaders, showcased videos of the internationally integrated cabins and photographs of the trust-building exercises that form the crux of the Seeds of Peace experience.

They allowed us a glimpse inside the ultra-secretive 'Dialogue' sessions, where students from opposing nations get together and passionately discuss issues of contention.

Following the multi-media presentation, two students spoke to the crowd. They described meeting teenaged participants from Lahore, Pakistan, and engaging them on political, social and personal levels.

Afterwards, in individual interviews, the youngsters shared their thoughts on the entire process.

Specifically, they described their mindsets before, during and after the camp.

On the slides that follow are their stories:

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