The Spirit of Peace gatherings at the Friendship Cafe in Gloucester are always different one from another. In my experience though, there is always a wonderful underpinning pulse of love: a love that draws people together who, concerned about the state of the world, want to find ways to better it.
That pulse was present at the meeting on September 25th. Our numbers were reduced this time for some reason but small can be beautiful, and that’s how it was as the evening unfolded.
We had a busy time, with many elements to consider, and much to discuss. We were treated to the presence of the Mock Mayor of Barton, who joined us in his full regalia and told us about the history of his position: the first ever Mock Mayor of Barton.
This was a playful contribution to the evening, but a serious one as well. Mark Cummings is a presenter at BBC Gloucestershire (6-9 am, meaning a 3.30 get up!). He is very much behind what Spirit of Peace is about. Later he talked to people with a view to using the material on radio in the weeks ahead. Connections, it’s all about connections.
Heather-Jane Ozanne gave us an overview of what Spirit of Peace is involved in doing (much more detail is on the website), with a particular emphasis on Pathways for Human Flourishing. That was to be our main focus for the evening.
Taking a break to pile our plates with food – as ever, deliciously shared food – we settled down toaddress three questions:
What do I mean by human flourishing?
How do I know when I’m flourishing?
What stops me from flourishing?
We talked these questions through in small groups and provided words or phrases on post-it notes to pin on boards. These were then considered collectively. There was a marked contrast in energy between those things that contribute to flourishing, and those that stop it. Contributing factors lead to: expansion, positivity, collectivity, creativity, while blocking factors result in contraction, isolation, hopelessness and negativity.
We were then asked to tell our stories of ways in which people had contributed to human flourishing – for themselves and for others. These included: a severely disabled woman (in another area) who became the receiver of internet shopping for working people, thereby providing a service to the community and giving her human contact; a volunteer at a doctors’ surgery who is the gatekeeper for the car park – thus helping the surgery and patients, and providing contact and friendships with the local community for himself and others; an initiative at a local church bringing people together to ‘Share the things we love’; community jam-making started by a wheelchair bound woman who, seeing children throwing fruit around, thought making something with it would be more constructive and enjoyable; a group of engineers who come together to find easier ways for disabled people to function; and perhaps the story that touched us most was told by a young boy with us about the cake stall in which he had been involved at school to raise money for a cancer charity. All of these stories showed what a big difference little things can make in terms of connection, developing friendships, and human flourishing.
Next we considered what groups we belong to and what we contribute to them which helps them to flourish. A crucial question was posed: ‘What is mine to do?’ This applied to us within our existing communities and within Spirit of Peace. I felt the question both helped to identify what is possible, whilst at the same time reminding us that we do have a responsibility for that with which we engage, however small.
We went on to brainstorm how Spirit of Peace might develop in the future. Much enthusiasm was expressed for doing things together practically, as well as the suggestion to have a summer meeting at the city farm making use of the pizza oven.
The evening concluded contemplatively as some of us put peace messages on the peace tree and shared them with to us verbally.
For me, this gathering brought things right down to grassroots level and served to set me thinking very actively about what small part I could best play in my local area. The quote from Mahatma Gandhi at the bottom of the Spirit of Peace banner caught my eye and I thought, “Yes, this is what this is all about”. His words are:
“With every true friendship we build more firmly the foundations on which the peace of the whole world rests.”
Our next meeting will be on December 4, with the focus on light and darkness to reflect the season, and I’m sure it will be another time when collectively we can make a difference to our troubled world, one little bit at a time.
– Judy Clinton, 26.09.17
I always gain so much from the Spirit of Peace evenings at the Friendship Cafe in Gloucester. Over the years that this event has run, a fraternity has built amongst those who attend (a shifting population though it is) which carries an energy of great hope and possibility.
May 22nd was no exception. As well as eating wonderful food provided through a shared meal, and catching up with others on a similar wavelength, we were blessed by a most profound talk by a former Israeli soldier, Ben Yeger. He told the moving story of how he came to see that there are no ‘Us and Them’, no ‘Enemy’, but simply, US. The epiphany for him was when he found himself pointing his gun, at point-blank range, at a Palestinian prisoner whom he was guarding in a transit vehicle. He was instructed to shoot this man dead if he were to try to escape or became violent. Seeing the terrified state of this fellow human being, Ben knew that if he were to shoot him, he would also kill his own humanity. Mercifully, he did not have to shoot him and it lead to Ben leaving the army and to him becoming a Combatant for Peace (now the European representative for the organisation), along with other Israeli former soldiers and, even more impressively, with Palestinians of the same persuasion.
The talk was about Ben’s personal journey and the work that is going on in Israel and Palestine in the direction of peace. It is painstaking, difficult, risky and slow work. I was filled with admiration for the courage and determination of those involved.
The focus was on Israel and Palestine, but the message was more universal than that. Who are our personal ‘them’? Ben was keen to stress the importance of our own inner work in recognising how we all make ‘them’ out of other people. We need to become aware of this dynamic, question it, and work to overcome it. He was also keen to say that everyone is at the particular stage that they are in this regard and that we are in a process of change that cannot happen overnight.
It is daunting to know what an enormous and profound work this is. But it is also inspiring to see such wonderful efforts being made in the direction of peace and to know that we can make a significant contribution by who we become in our own lives, day by day.
– Judy Clinton
On Monday 22nd May 2017 are delighted to be welcoming Ben Yeger from the organisation Combatants for Peace, to our Bring and Share community supper at Friendship Cafe, Chequers Bridge, Gloucester (see here for event details).
Ben is representing Combatants for Peace, which brings together Israeli and Palestinian ex-combatants to work towards peace. From the prism of his personal experience Ben will address the following question: Are we separate entities or intrinsically interconnected with all things and beings? Our education encourages a sense of separation of “Us from Them” in Human-to-Human, Human to Nature and Human to Spirit relationships. But is this true?
Ben grew up in Israel with the narrative that “I have an enemy who wants me destroyed, who I must fight, to protect myself.” An ex-combatant in the Israeli army, over the last 9 years Ben has been working with the ‘Enemy’, exploring the possibility that everything is interconnected and interdependent and that this story isn’t true. There is no “Them” – only “We”. In this talk, he will share his personal story of how he came to this realization. He will also show a trailer for the film ‘Disturbing the Peace’ which focusses on the work of the ex-combatants. Ben Yeger is the European representative of Combatants for Peace (www.cfpeace.org) and Director of Moving Conflicts (www.movingconflicts.org). He was a TEDx speaker in Warwick in 2013 https://youtu.be/Qzvopt5gwtg
The listening conversation in Stroud is usually held every 3rd Monday of the month at The Christian Community, 7p.m for 7.30p.m till 9p.m. Snacks and drinks – as a bring and share – are offered before and after the meeting.
This group started a few years ago, after the visit of Spirit of Peace Partners Sheikh Ghassan Manasra and Ibrahim Issa of the Hope Flower school, when they came to Stroud and introduced to us their style of “conversation cafe”. In these, people would come together, from all paths of spiritual beliefs or non, “just” out of a wish to meet, converse and understand ‘the other’.
This inspired Larry Leighton and Malcolm Alsop to introduce such conversations regularly (for 7 years now ) and create together a warm circle attempting to truly listen together – to create a space – and let come, out of this quality what emerges. This living process strengthens our common humanity and makes us all appreciate our differences .It is not “pub chat” but rather deeper and reflective exchange. No one tryes to convert or persuade anyone else or to judge them.
Sometimes we have a theme, sometimes not but always a rich sharing developpes – listening in between the words – listening to the after image~ creating a vessal together for more Peace and Brotherliness in the world.
These evenings are warming, strengthening and inspiring helping us to stand in the world with more awareness, consciousness, courage and responsability.
Juliette Elgably-Leighton and Larry Leighton
For details of dates please see events section or email email@example.com.
Fair Shares – What’s a Community Time Bank?
How you can be part of it?
Monday 10th October 2016
The Friendship Cafe, Chequers Bridge, Painswick Road,
Gloucester GL4 6PR
What are time banks and how do they fit into our world of community building and opportunity? The first “time bank” was started by Fair Shares in the UK around 18 years ago. Gloucestershire is part of that initiative and has always been at the forefront of the timebanking movement.
Starting at 7pm on Monday 10th October, Gloucester based Fair Shares Time Broker Reyaz Limalia is guest speaker at the next Spirit of Peace community Bring & Share Supper at The Friendship Cafe, Chequers Bridge on Painswick Road, Gloucester GL4 6PR
Reyaz says, “Timebanking is a tool that brings people together. They exchange their skills and experiences helping to build on the strengths of the community. Please come along and find out how we have developed timebanking in Gloucestershire and how it’s affected the lives of those involved. We will also have time for questions and discussions”.
The evening is organised by UK registered charity Spirit of Peace in partnership with the Friendship Cafe Community.
Contributions of vegetarian and alcohol free food and drink for the supper are much appreciated. Everyone is welcome.
Admission is free but donations supporting the ongoing local and international peace work of Spirit of Peace are appreciated.
For more information: Neesa Copple (local coordinator) Tel: 01453 759 689 or Mobile: 07837 403 854 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had another inspiring meeting at the Friendship Café. Members of the community of the Grange, Newnham on Severn, came to celebrate and share their ‘gold award’ as Peace Ambassadors. The process has taken three years, supported by the Asha centre and Spirit of Peace. The prevailing mood of the ceremony was one of great joy and celebration. Each member of the community stepped forward and talked passionately and often movingly about their journey towards their award and why they believe they are truly Peace Ambassadors.
“because I bring love to all I meet”, said one
“because I see beauty in everything and everyone”, said another
One just reached out her arms and embraced the whole room, a gesture that was far more eloquent than a thousand words.
For me, the most poignant was a woman who talked about her work to combat hate crime against those with learning disabilities. She and some friends from the community speak on the radio and go to schools in Stroud and Gloucester to talk about the personal impact such abuse has had on their self esteem and confidence. “It was so good to be heard” she said to me.
We are delighted to share news from Civil-isation, a new initiative that aims to link like-minded people through the ethos of respect, shared values and celebrating diversity.
Founded on the fundamental right of all to the dignity of respect, click here to learn more and become an advocate for this important work.