Muslim pupils look to Israel for pen pals

By Jessica Elgot, September 22, 2011
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Sajida Asif with some of her artwork

Sajida Asif with some of her artwork

Many children have pen pals with whom they swap notes on family life, pets, hobbies and school work. But one primary school teacher insists she would prefer her pupils to discuss peace in the Middle East with theirs.

Birmingham art teacher Sajida Asif is seeking an Israeli school willing to link up and swap letters with her pupils at Colebourne Primary School in Hodge Hill, where two-thirds of the children are Muslims.

Ms Asif said: "Our majority Muslim pupils can begin to learn more about the Jewish community and build better friendships between the two faiths, better than some grown ups currently do in the world.

"These children from both communities will take a step towards learning about each other for a more peaceful world.

"It may be a tiny step, but a step in the right direction, a direction which hopefully the new generation will be keen to follow.

"We would like to begin a pen-pal relationship with a school which also desires to 'learn for peace'." Headteacher Stuart Guest said: "Politics can be so divisive but this is purely about helping children and seeing what we can learn from them.

"Parents have been totally supportive, no-one has had an issue with it. Some of our older children do hear about what's going on in the Middle East. They are informed, they watch Newsround and we would encourage them to discuss that with their pen pals. They can also learn to appreciate what they have, a safe home and a safe school, free from threats."

In June, Ms Asif organised a Peace Week, where children illustrated postcards with doves and Magen Davids to be sent to children in Israel and the Palestinian territories. They were also taught peace songs in Hebrew and Arabic.

Ms Asif is a Friend of Children of Peace, a non-partisan organisation set up to develop dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian children.

The organisation is supported by Prime Minister David Cameron, the US Vice President Joe Biden and former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Its patrons include Madonna and actress Judi Dench.

    Last updated: 1:06pm, September 22 2011