Editor, The Spotlight:
Reading the news, it can be tempting to believe that conflict is an inevitable fact of life, something for which we have neither the ability nor the responsibility to end. Fortunately, young people in our community do not all hold this view. At the Bethlehem High School Awards Ceremony I had the honor of presenting the Youth Peace Award to Kartik Ramkumar. Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace awards the prize annually to a graduating senior who demonstrated extraordinary effort in the pursuit of peace and social justice at the local, national, and/or global level, and who has a firm commitment to continue these pursuits in the future. This year it carried a cash prize of $300 and a framed certificate.
Kartik Ramkumar was recognized in large part for his work with Children at the Well Youth Storytellers. Children at the Well is an interfaith and intergenerational venture designed to engage young people in the art of storytelling as a means to deepen their understanding of their own traditions, to get to know people of other faiths, and to promote peace and understanding among different peoples. According to Paula Weiss, who co-founded and directs the organization, Ramkumar has been involved with the group for four years during which time he has befriended young people from many different religions and backgrounds, shared stories of his Hindu tradition, mentored younger participants and spoken with audiences in churches, mosques, synagogues, libraries and schools. In addition, he represented the group at the 2010 Teen Identity and Diversity Education conference in Boston, and attended an interfaith conference at the UN. Writing in his award application, Ramkumar explained that he finds stories to be an excellent medium for the exchange of ideas because “they are plentiful and are little messengers that share values and traditions. They can help us see how many of the world’s cultures and faiths share similar values and ideas.”
Whether through physical injury, emotional scars or lost opportunities, throughout the world young people bear some of the greatest burdens of conflict. Yet it is among youth that we can also find the greatest hope for a better world. The Youth Peace Award is intended to honor and shine a light on that hope. We are grateful to Bethlehem Central High School for allowing us the opportunity to present the award. Congratulations and many thanks to Kartik Ramkumar for his work promoting peace and justice.