Enlightening the Next Generation with Peace

"We do not see the expression in young people of the forms of xenophobia, or intolerance, or racism that are unfortunately now prevailing in many of our societies. We see young people reacting to this with new forms of interaction and solidarity […]." -United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

A cold, snow-filled evening recently became a bright, festive celebration as students with cultural and family backgrounds from around the world carried the International Peace Light to start holiday celebrations in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, USA. The Peace Light began its journey with the International Scouts of Austria retrieving a flame from the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where oil lamps have burnt continuously for 1000 years. The Peace Light then travelled to Austria, where Scouts lit additional flames to bring to countries across Europe and North America as messages of peace. The tradition began in 1986 as part of a large charitable relief mission for children in need in Austria and abroad. Thanks to the efforts of Boy Scout Troop 83, the Peace Light was brought to the Tree Lighting Ceremony of East Stroudsburg.

Just as the Peace Light journeyed long and far as a messenger of peace, student members of the ASPIRE chapter of East Stroudsburg South High School have also travelled from across the globe to call the Pocono region of Pennsylvania home. Their families have immigrated from Algeria, Brazil, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, the Philippines, Poland and Turkey, as well as several Caribbean island countries. These young people are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist. They have made our community rich and vibrant, strong and diverse. They have dispelled stereotypes and fought injustice through their actions and not just words.

On 9 December 2017, the ASPIRE chapter students were invited by the organizers of the event to carry the Peace Light though their hometown. They walked alongside politicians, religious leaders and community activists as friends and representatives of peace. In the past, through the support of the United Nations Academic Impact, our students have attended lectures at the United Nations by Malala Yousafzai, Dr. Jane Goodall and the Secretary-General António Guterres. They have been taught by those who have taken great risks to make the world a safer and better place. They have taken these lessons from the United Nations to heart and have brought them back to our community.