Peace through Play

In the United States, many children start to play sports at a very young age. As early as 5 or 6, American children are thrust into sports like soccer, football, tennis, basketball, softball, baseball, and more. Team sports are especially emphasized for young people, because they teach you important skills and valuable lessons about the world you’re growing up in. Lessons like how to share, respect others, and be active are just three of the benefits to playing sports. Many could argue the disadvantages to sports . . . injuries, cost, and an outcome of aggressive behavior are just a few that came to mind. However, when a child is young, they are truly reaping the benefits of being social and being active through a sport.

In the Middle East, children also have the opportunities to play sports at a relatively young age, however these opportunities may not be as wide spread as the United States. (We tend to have a little league team in several sports in just about every other town you can go to.) As I was looking up sports as a hobbie for young children, I came across several sports initiatives that specifically target young people, while heavily pushing for peace between different Middle Eastern countries.

  1. UP – Ultimate Peace


This organization brings children together from three communities, Palestinian, Arab Israeli, and Jewish Israeli, to play ultimate frisbee together as well as foster communication and acceptance through their interactions. It began in 2009 and was started by two Americans and an Israeli. Ultimate frisbee is consistently gaining popularity in the Middle East, as well as in other parts of the world.

  1. Peace Players International


This organization is active in Israel and the West Bank, and strives to educate Jewish and Arab people through basketball. They also work with immigrant populations and they provide other initiatives for children to take advantage of such as the Leadership Development Program. They were founded in 2001 “on the premise that “children who play together can learn to live together.” In its twelve years of operations, PPI has reached more than 65,000 participants and trained more than 1,100 youth leaders.”

  1. MECA – Middle East Children’s Alliance


This organization is slightly different than the previous two. MECA is a non-profit organization that works towards several goals within the Middle Eastern region. Children’s rights, providing aid, and supporting other organizations initiatives are some of the main tasks taken on by this organization. Their main focus is not on sports, but sports do play a role in the programs and initiatives they help fund. They are also currently funding a project called “Let the children play and heal” which exposes children to theater, music, art, and dance as a form of expression for their pain and heartache.

  1. GSF – Global Sport Fund youth camp


Lastly, the GSF is UN intiative that was started to impact several hurting regions of the world. Areas where access to resources and programs is scarce. They run sports camps all over the world, and this year they ran their first camp in the Middle East. Held in October, the GSF chose Lebanon as the host and children from Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen (just to name a few) came together to play soccer.

These sports initiatives are just one realm that peace can and should be explored through. There are intiatives popping up all over the world to foster peace and understanding among children, because who better to expose our vision for the future to? They are the future.


6 thoughts on “Peace through Play

  1. Amazing! I really like this topic – I had no idea those organizations and programs were started. They seem to have taken a mission similar to a nonprofit, like providing support, outlets for creativity, cooperativeness, group atmospheres, etc. but translated it into something children understand. I firmly believe that since children are so impressionable at this point in their lives, it is important to surround them with an inclusive environment. I played softball, volleyball, and swam during my childhood and I know most of my life lessons until college came from those experiences – hopefully these programs will have the same impact on those kids.

  2. I think these type of peace games and organizations are perfect for the Middle East! Growing up I was always involved in some sort of sport or organizations because it is a great way to meet different people and just to have fun. In the Middle East, it’s really cool to see organization actively trying to find common grounds to show the future generation that peace does exist, because examples like this can possibly lead to a more understanding and negotiable generation to come.

  3. I really love the idea of these organizations. It may not bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it is a perfect start. I think that these types of initiatives and programs are important to bring to younger generations. This allows them to create bonds and relationships with people they may have once seen as an “enemy”. I think these programs create proof that a peace is a possibility for the future. Like Danielle, I think that this is an impressionable point of time in these children’s lives and it is extremely important to expose them to an inclusive environment. I think that introducing things at a young age “normalizes” them and allows them to be easier accepted into society.

  4. I’ve never heard of organizations like this, but I love the idea of promoting peace and friendship though sports. I recently wrote a blog post on peace camps in the Middle East, which is a school type setting where Israelis and Palestinians went to talk to one another and find peace. Although I really liked this idea, I think sports would be more affective because these organizations are promoting peace without forcing anything. This allows kids to find peace and friends for themselves, in a natural setting, while having fun.

  5. It’s always hopeful and inspiring to see opposing communities coming together. This may only be a very small step for the Middle East towards peace, but peace in the ME relies on sustainable relationships of the future! Great read.

  6. Reading about organizations like these give me hope for the future. Teaching children to cooperate and love each other across cultural boundaries is one of the best places we can start for creating peace. I love the idea of putting kids into situations where they can learn to do this on their own. By doing so, it becomes possible for them to seek peace throughout the rest of their lives.

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