Teens Go to Spiritual Camp

When you think of summer camp, lots of things may come to mind, but probably not religion and spirituality. This week, Interfaith Ministries has been holding a teen summer camp in which camp-goers learn about various religions by meeting and interacting with people just like themselves.

The concept of this camp is quite interesting. Interfaith Ministries' Andrea Fineman breaks it down.

"The goal is to bring teens from all different religions together to learn about each other, so that they know that they're all pretty much the same and it kind of helps bring the new generation to understanding."

Fifty two teens from various schools and churches in the Houston area signed up for the camp held at the Houston Baha'i center near downtown.  On this day, they had special guests from the FBI talking to them about crime scene investigations.

"Would your shoe prints be identical if right now you will be putting them in the dirt like this?"

Organizers say the purpose of the finger and shoe print activity is to show that although people may be different, they are also the same.  Iesa Galloway runs the camp and says it's important to show kids from various religions that they can have different beliefs and still get along.

"Well, what the kids have told us from last year's camp, and also we have an interfaith youth council, is that school is not really considered a safe place for religious discussion.  People may get together based on their interests, sports, movies, video games they like, but it never becomes a place where they really have the opportunity to talk about spirituality or religious beliefs."

Melissa Ng will be a high school junior next year.  She's also a Buddist.

"They said they'd never had a Buddist here before so I said you know, I guess its time to represent how I feel about my religion, so I decided to give it a chance."

She gave it a chance and she's glad she did.

"You have religion talks in school and it's usually like the same group of people and the minority groups usually never speak up. And at this camp you're like, wow, I didn't know there's so many religions.  Usually at school, they'll be like, oh it's mostly the Christian group, and you feel kind of left out and below, because no one really wants to take light on you.  So it's really a great experience here."

Jeffery Wilson will be an 8th grader this year.  He's a Christian but has learned about religions he didn't even know existed.

"There was one religion, I forgot what it was, but they believe that if you are good and when you die, there's a bridge, like us we just go to heaven or hell. But them, there's a bridge, and if you been bad, there's a bridge and it's gonna close and it gets real narrow.  And if you're a male you're gonna have a witch for a wife for the rest of your life, like eternity."

The students aren't trying to convert each other to their own religion.  They're just there to meet other teenagers, learn about their various beliefs and have a little fun.