The Soul of Europe has had a fruitful year. Much of our work blossoms with hope of a healthy harvest.
“The Room is Full of Light”
On Wednesday October 3rd a Kosovo Albanian and a Kosovo Serb NGO presented the report Time for Reconciliation commissioned by the Soul of Europe. The report -available on the website – describes the relations between the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate – the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch – and the Municipality of Peja/Pec – a more or less Kosovo Albanian, Muslim city.
As a result of weeks of consultation, interviews and meetings undertaken by local colleagues to see if it was possible to improve relations between the Patriarchate and the municipality the report made a number of proposals, including the setting up of a community council which will act as the forum where matters of security and access to the monastery can be decided. These were greeted very positively by an audience of sixty people including the mayor, Bishop Jovan heading the Patriarchate, NGOs, politicians from the Kosovo government, the British ambassador and his team from the embassy.
Tim Cartwright from the Council of Europe described the meeting as ‘very uplifting; we don’t have many meetings like this in Kosovo’.
The Patriarchate is one of five sacred sites in the Mediterranean region designated by the EU (the others are the Vatican, Mount Athos, Jerusalem and Mecca) so the project has more than a local significance. This proves it is possible for a lean organisation like the Soul of Europe to be a successful catalyst and initiator.
When the meeting ended, a Serb murmured in my ear: ‘This room is full of light.’
We were then invited to the Patriarchate. In Bishop Jovan’s house we toasted the 37th birthday of our colleague Kujtim – a Kosovo Albanian. Such a moment would have been impossible before. Kosovo Albanians were not allowed in the monastery.
As a result of our initiative, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kosovo has invited the Soul of Europe to arrange an international conference in 2013 on Religion and Globalisation (big words which allow for plenty of scope).
Bishop Jovan has asked the Soul of Europe to propose partners for establishing an archive centre at the Patriarchate. His intention echoes the words of George Santayana: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’.
12 Cities Project
The Soul of Europe in association with the Doha International Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (DICID) have established the 12 cities project. The project aims to interrupt and stop the visceral hatred, Islamophobia, towards many European Muslim communities. Islamophobia is as much a racial as a religious issue.
Our aim is to create a movement initially in twelve European cities which will attract a generation of young Muslims who regard Europe as their home; we will also search for those of other faiths or none who stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The cities include London, Birmingham, Paris, Vienna, Sarajevo, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Cologne, Malmo, Amsterdam and Tiblisi. In September 2013, representatives from these cities will gather in Dortmund for a meeting to launch the movement.
The project will be managed by Noori Bibi and Rizvan Hussain of Young Muslim Voices. It is wonderful and invigorating to work together with these young people. We are grateful for the advice and guidance of Liz Fekete, director of the Institute for Race Relations, and our German partners Hartmut Dreier and Thomas Dreessen.
Presentation: Peace-Building and Bach.
Donald has given six presentations of Peace-building and Bach. Dr Ian Terry the Vicar of St Peter’s Bournemouth wrote:
“We were totally enthralled by Donald’s imaginative and skilled presentation in which he wove together poignant stories of his work for reconciliation with evocative pieces of Bach’s organ music. It was clear we were in the hands of a master. Donald presents compellingly, and plays with great sensitivity. There is music for the ears, the mind and the heart. I would commend his presentation to all churches, and those who want to learn more about the processes of peace-building.”
If you know of a church which might like to host this presentation please be in touch with Donald Reeves.
Writing & Publishing
Peter Pelz has completed a short book describing the four years of our work in Kosovo. He is also completing a longer book, called Dust, about the Soul of Europe’s travels over the last twelve years. Donald Reeves is beginning a book on Wisdom and the Imagination: a request from younger friends and colleagues who asked him to share what he has learnt in his life. The Soul of Europe is exploring self publishing. Our experience of publishers is that they are nervous about promoting specialist books. If you have any experience of self -publishing please let us know.
To all who support our work – either in prayer or practically. We are grateful to Lord Hylton who has been with the Soul of Europe twice to Kosovo, and who made this project possible.
We are grateful to our trustees and advisory council, to Motherlode who look after our website, and to our friends in Kosovo and Bosnia who encourage us. THANK YOU.
We try to be a lean organisation. Neither Peter Pelz nor Donald Reeves are paid. We function from the Coach House – so there is no rent. We have to raise funds to cover the ‘office’ and also for basic travel and accommodation costs. If we could find £6000 a year our basic costs would be met – that is alongside those who already support us. If you would like more information please let us know. The Soul of Europe Trust is a registered charity so if you are a UK taxpayer, then Gift Aid is available.
The Soul of Europe looks forward to hearing from you and comments about our work.
With very best wishes for Christmas and 2013.
Donald Reeves and Peter Pelz