I am passionate about food and peace, so when I learned about Bridges for Communities’ Peace Feasts, I had to check it out.
Bridges for Communities is a charity which aims to build a more peaceful and cohesive society by creating spaces for positive interaction between local, diverse communities. They have been running their unique Peace Feast initiative for 4 years and hope to encourage others across the UK to take the model to their own communities.
So how do you go about building peace over the meal table?
1. Get People Talking
If you look closely you will see this lady is wearing a sticky label with a flag of her choice on it. As guests arrived, we were encouraged to write our name and draw a picture of a flag that has significance to us. It could indicate our home country or a place we simply feel close to.
Sometimes it is hard to initiate conversation, especially with people from different cultures, but these flags created an ideal conversation starter and eventually led to a greater understanding of our global connections.
2. Share Food and Music
When we eat together we share something basic that unites us all. When we are fed we feel welcomed and loved.
That is why it was so wonderful to be fed by the Bristol Hospitality Network, an organisation that extends solidarity to people seeking asylum and experiencing destitution through accommodation and creative community involvement, such as undertaking the cooking for this Peace Feast.
This is Moussa Kouyate, master Kora player, on behalf of the Lorraine Ayensu Refugee Arts (LARA) group.
3. Reflect on the Past
When Qerim Nuredini, from Kosovo, told his story of being a refugee many years ago, it reminded me of a time of controversy that’s now almost forgotten.
I remembered as a child hearing derogatory statements about the refugees arriving in the UK from Kosovo. I also remember members of my family working desperately hard to support a Kosovan family seeking residency.
Yet today it is almost forgotten and people no longer talk of their concerns about the integration of Kosovans. Once a person becomes part of society, we forget what it was we were worried about. This is now their home, as much as it is mine.
But by being reminded of his story, we were able to realise the parallels with what we are hearing about Syrians right now.
4. Reflect on the Present?
Essam arrived in the UK from Syria only a year ago. He is a highly qualified man, with engineers and doctors in his family.
He helped to explain the conflict in Syria by comparing it to a cancer. According to Essam, the Assad Regime is the condition, and from it, ISIS is growing like a bacteria amongst the sickness. Currently he fears that the ‘consultants’ are treating only the bacteria and forgetting the main problem that is the cancer.
Although he had a far better life at home, where his qualification counted more, his memories were formed and his family grew, he knows that now, Syria, is not a place he can remain.
He has not come to the UK to claim benefits, but he does want to reclaim his future and for that opportunity he is extremely thankful. In fact, he explained that in Islam there is a saying; ‘The Person who does not thank people, does not thank God.’
5. Focus on the Future
That is our job now. You can’t go to a Peace Feast without it changing you in some way. The decision is how you let that impact your thoughts and actions in the future.
Although I am sure that each and every Peace Feast is different, this particular evening reminded me of the importance of remembering the past, so it can help to inform the present and navigate the future.