Even when the odds seem stacked against them, young people hold out hope. They must; they have their whole lives ahead of them.

The challenges are real for youth in many communities where the American Friends Service Committee works. The global economic crisis has cast a shadow over their future prospects, leading some to seek the protection of groups that promise safety through intimidation and violence. Depending on the community, those groups include militias, militaries, and gangs.

But we believe that when given the opportunity to make a positive impact, young people can transform violent situations into more peaceful communities. And we’ve seen it work time and time again:

“This is about the human right to stay together.”

Undeterred by an immigration raid on her house in New Jersey, Florinda jumped to defend her family’s well-being by speaking out for immigration reform. Read more.

“When you stop being challenged, you stop growing.”

Wahid, a young man from Maryland, found his purpose mentoring peers while serving a prison sentence. Read more about Wahid.

“I feel I am ready to be a peace builder.”

Linda, a young woman from Cambodia, discovered a new self-respect after making new friends from Thailand and Vietnam—countries she had been taught to hate. Read about the Mekong Peace Journey.

These are just three stories from a whole generation whose engagement is making a demonstrable impact on their communities. Each story is deeply personal. I am struck by their optimism and their commitment to transforming conflict and seeking justice peacefully.

Please share these stories with your family and friends. As we work alongside many different communities and share their lessons, we can build a culture that truly values peace and sees the effectiveness of nonviolence. Thank you for standing with us.

In peace,

Shan Cretin
General Secretary