Friends Without Borders



Welcome back to Saint Rita’s blog about present-day peacemakers! May you continue to find inspiration through the story behind our newly-featured group! For this edition, I thought it might be important to highlight people who have found relatively simple (compared to our last piece on MLK, that is) ways of sparking monumental peace efforts. So without further adieu, let me introduce to you the amazing movement that is Friends Without Borders!

In the early 2000’s, John Silliphant and Mark Peters traveled to India for service work, but were forced to leave the country when there arose complications with their visas. While en route to Pakistan, they came up with the idea of launching a massive letter writing campaign between the children of India and Pakistan. The Kashmir Conflict between these countries has persisted since the partition of India in 1947, which leads us to one (of many) large and grueling questions: how on Earth do we forge peace, despite histories of war and conflict? Silliphant and Peters looked to future generations and surmised that if Indian and Pakistani children could befriend one another, then they would grow into adults concerned about reconciling differences between the nations. Silliphant described the project in this way:

When those two kids connect, a connection is made that is going to be lasting. And so, if you connect a whole generation then when they grow up the world is replaced by kids with a whole different mindset…The children of India believe that [India and Pakistan] are fighting over the past, and the past is gone. We need to look out for the future.

Within a few weeks’ time, Silliphant and Peters collected more than 10,000 letters to deliver between the nations. The response has been overwhelming: children from India once wrote a love letter to the children of Pakistan measuring 319 feet by 233 feet, to which Pakistani children replied, “we love the children of India and we want peace.” What’s more, this campaign has become the largest peace effort in the histories of both India and Pakistan. Friends Without Borders is a beautiful model of how basic human connection, through simple means, can effectively bring about peace in our world.

So often we reflect upon larger-than-life figures like the great Dr. King and while they provide us with examples of hope and strength, how many among us question our own abilities to move mountains? But let me remind you, our marvelous faith-filled community you, that we are told in 1 Peter:

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

In your own ways, grand and small, you members of a “chosen race” have more power than you realize to create waves in this world. Is your resounding question still “how”? Here’s the first step: know that without the hand of God in our lives, we are powerless. Our gifts, abilities, ideas, and truly everything that is good and lacking in each of us, are all according to His design. You are not alone in your efforts and to the extent which we believe in the sanctity of all life, so too do we believe that all people are imbued with a purpose and calling. Yes - you are graced with purpose. And yes - all of the graces bestowed upon Dr. King, Silliphant, and Peters are available to you as well.

Mountains are moved stone-by-stone. Do not complicate your efforts at making peace, simply look to the One who is its source.

Discussion Question:

1) Where and how would you work towards peace, if you did not doubt your abilities to do so?

Peace to you. 

-Kelsey Rode, Saint Rita Shrine Office Administrator