In 1999, artist Vince Gill released a hit single with the words, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” and through the “Children’s Peace Project” in 2011, Father William J. Turner of St. Mary Parish and the families of St. Louis Guanella Council #3092 of the Knights of Columbus, did just that.
According to a press release from Joe Yekulis, state public relations director for the Michigan Knights of Columbus about the project, Turner, the council, St. Mary Parish, and the Chelsea community hosted five Palestinian teenagers and their adult chaperones from July 27-Aug. 22, 2011.
The program added up to special recognition for the Chelsea council from the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who recently awarded the 2012 International Youth Activity Award to Chelsea Council #3092.
The project reached out to the Christians in the Holy Land from Bethlehem, who are caught in the middle of a conflict between two warring factions, the Israelis and the Muslims, neither of whom fully accepts them as members of their people.
The project received special recognition for the Chelsea council from the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who recently awarded the 2012 International Youth Activity Award to Chelsea Council #3092.
Following the student’s visit to Michigan in August of last year, St. Mary Parish welcomed Fouad Boutros Ibrahim Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, for a special visit and Mass on Sept. 24, 2011, along with Sir Rateb Rabie, president and CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.
The council was represented by Past Grand Knight Owen Ballow and his wife, Julie, at ceremonies in Anaheim, Calif. on Aug. 8.
The Youth Award was presented as a part of the events of the 130th Supreme Convention at the Hilton Convention Center in Anaheim, and the Ballows’ received an all-expenses paid trip from the Supreme Council to be in attendance.
Owen Ballow said that there were only five program awards given out during the convention, and that the International Youth Activity Award was the only one that was international in scope.
“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,” he said in the press release.
“With the six families from Chelsea who acted as ‘host families,’ we were able to show the best of the people of Chelsea and the State of Michigan,” he said, adding, “They shared their own great spirituality with us. These were 14- and 15-year-old kids, who were always talking about Jesus in their lives, and they would regularly quote passages from Scripture.”
In spite of their circumstances, they never spoke ill of anyone, he said, and “we learned a great deal from them as well.”
Amanie Issa, who visited Chelsea, wrote, “The town of Chelsea is like heaven. I know that’s too much for a small town, but I love Chelsea. I love the streets, the trees and the people of Chelsea. They are amazing. They always smile, and the thing that I liked the most is that they are so respectful and that is the most important thing.”
“The Christians in the Holy Land are diminishing in numbers, as the Israeli’s continue to hem them in and restrict their movements,” Turner said. “Many continue to give up and leave for the U.S. and other parts of the world. But we have created a bridge for them between the Israeli’s and the Muslims. They know that we are willing to support them and their various projects, livelihood, and works.”
He said, “Our people came to better understand their plight as a people under occupation, and unable to live in dignity. I am grateful to our host families and the entire Chelsea community for making their visit a reality.”
Click here for more information about the event.