Stephenville resident Dillon Phillips, who will be heading into the Peace Corps in February to work as an agricultural extension agent in Madagascar for two years, wrote in his Peace Corps application cover letter: “Knowledge contributes to tolerance. Tolerance breeds empathy. Empathy is key for equality. And ultimately, equality is peace.”

If you’re not familiar with Madagascar, here are some interesting facts, particularly the last two in this list that relate directly to Dillon’s quote:

• It’s official name is the Republic of Madagascar

• It’s the fourth-largest island in the world, about twice the size of Arizona

• It is located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa

• It was one of the last major landmasses on earth to be colonized by humans

• The earliest settlers from present-day Indonesia arrived between 350 and 550 A.D.

• The island attracted Arab and Persian traders as early as the 7th century

• Migrants from Africa arrived around 1000 A.D.

• It was a pirate stronghold during the late 17th and early 18th centuries

• The island served as a slave trading center into the 19th century

• From the 16th to the late 19th century, the native Merina Kingdom dominated much of Madagascar

• The island was conquered by the French in 1896 who made it a colony

• Independence from France was gained in 1960

• Prior to the Holocaust in WW II - during which millions of Jews were killed by the Nazi regime in Europe - Hitler and the Third Reich considered deporting all Jews to Madagascar

• The scheme arose in the 1930s and was called, “The Madagascar Plan,” but was never implemented, largely because Allied advances on land and sea in and around Europe made it untenable

Source: The CIA World Factbook and The Jewish Virtual Library