Since our last newsletter at Christmas 2012, there have been significant events and developments.
International Conference at Peja/Pec: ‘Faith and Reconciliation’ May 2013
Following our successful intervention in Peja/Pec (in Kosovo place names are in 2 languages, Albanian and Serbian), where the Soul of Europe had helped to promote healthy relations between the Patriarchate – the heart of the Serbian Orthodox Church – and the local Municipality, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs invited the Soul of Europe together with the Balkans Institute – to arrange and facilitate an international conference.
170 people from Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Italy, the UK, USA, France, Germany, Finland, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and many other countries, met for presentations and panels on the Theory and Practice of Dialogue, Dialogue in the Public Realm, Dialogue and the Social Media and Shared Space, Dialogue and the Green agenda.
Reactions to the conference have been enthusiastic. For most of the participants it was their first visit to Kosovo and the conference was a success for this young Republic as it seeks for more recognition throughout the world.
The conference ended with a visit to the principal mosque in Peja/Pec. It was an important moment when the Serbian Orthodox bishops took their shoes off and entered the mosque. Also afterwards when the people at the conference – including Muslim participants – were warmly welcomed at the Patriarchate. (Read more about the conference: www.interfaithkosovo.org )
Among the participants were Adnan Jabucar – Adnan was our project manager for six years in Bosnia, Noori Bibi and Rizwan Hussain – our project managers for the 12 cities project, Peter and Marilyn Billingham, Simon Robinson and Alastair Boag from our advisory council.
The 12 Cities Project
Noori Bibi and Rizwan Hussain, the project managers for the 12 cities project write: The 12 Cities Network is an interfaith, intergenerational and international campaign aiming to mobilize a grassroots movement across Europe tackling Islamophobia.
A gathering will take place in Germany this September, when activists will share their stories and campaigns. Mentors will facilitate workshops on methods of local, international and creative campaigning. Young campaigners will be paired up with mentors of an older generation, who will support and assist with localized peace building methods. The 12 Cities Network will act as a steering group in September to collectively launch “Kick Islamophobia”, a campaign that will become the over-arching vision of each city.
Visit to Tiblisi
Donald Reeves and Peter Pelz will be visiting Georgia from 1st – 9th September. We have received an invitation from Archbishop Malkhaz – the leader of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Georgia. This church, and particular the Archbishop’s courageous ministry, engages directly with Islamophobia and homophobia. The purpose of our visit is to explore ways in which the Soul of Europe could be useful to the archbishop’s ministry of peace-building and reconciliation.
Tiblisi is one of the 12 cities.
The Soul of Europe UK
In the run up to the election in 2015, there will be much debate about ‘In or Out of Europe, with the promise of a referendum in 2015 if the Conservative Party wins with an overall majority.
The Soul of Europe agrees with those who believe that it would be a disaster for the UK if the UK were to ‘leave the EU – for reasons of business and our standing in the world. This was robustly expressed in the Observer on May 18th by Geoffrey Howe. However neither he nor anyone else has recently considered the question: ‘Is there more to Europe than a market? What is the place of religion and culture in the Europe of the future?’
The Soul of Europe, is intending to organise a public gathering in London in 2014 with further gatherings in Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh) where this question can be addressed and answered.
It is a complex question. Is it for instance possible to speak of a region of the world as having a soul? And if so what does such a concept look like on the ground?
Donald Reeves will be writing a paper to interest possible sponsors and speakers Donald asks: ‘If anyone reading this can suggest any books or articles I should read or people I should meet, please let me know’.
In our book A Tender Bridge Donald begins to answer this question in a sermon he preached at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, January 1999, launching the Soul of Europe. If you would like a copy of A Tender Bridge we will be pleased to send it.
True Food for the Soul
These words greeted Donald Reeves’ after one of his presentations on Peace-building and Bach. He speaks about peace-building, and plays Chorale Preludes from Bach’s collections in the Orgelbüchlein, and Leipzig chorales. If there is a church near you which would like to host this unusual event please be in touch with us.
We hope you have read this far. We are grateful for those who support our work – some of you have supported the Soul of Europe since 1999. While we raise funds for particular projects we need to ensure that the office and basic expenses are met. We are looking for an additional £700 a month to meet these costs. We would be grateful for any help you can give us. As a registered charity Gift Aid is available. (Neither Donald Reeves nor Peter Pelz are paid and the project is run from the Coach House. There is no rent for the office).
All the very best and we look forward to hearing from you. Please keep in touch with us. We appreciate these contacts.