The next round: Food for Peace

For those of you unfamiliar with Spanda, the Tea for Peace project is part and parcel of the Jubilo project, which was launched at the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 2006 and endorsed by the Council of 100 Leaders of the World Economic Forum (Davos, 2006). Our upcoming project Food for Peace is the next stage of the Tea for Peace program, which consists of a series of events revolving around dialogue and mutual understanding through intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

Food for Peace consists of a series of round-table workshops amongst the community of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – for sharing ideas on the “Food” topic within a cross-cultural comparative approach. The expected number of participants is between 60-80, and of course we will make sure the religions and their respective adherents are properly represented by inviting not only academics, but also rabbis, priests and imams.

Understanding the limits of cultural and religious dialogue in daily life, Spanda will screen a 20-minute during film which serves the purpose of (1) topic preparation, (2) displaying new and different angles on one and the same topic and (3) being a stepping stone to ensue in further dialogue, which – like communities with a diverse ethnic make-up – can only succeed when mutual understanding, respect and participation are given factors.

Having chosen the topic of Food for this round of workshops means that there is something at hand with inherent pleasurable qualities: Food. It has been and still is served by all religious people, but it also has served different religious people. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all have their respective beliefs about food, but also their respective traditions about food and they all share the need and view not to waste or self-indulge in food because it was, especially in the earlier days of the three Abrahamic faiths, in much shorter supply than it is these days (sadly this only goes for some parts of this world). Eating came with a healthy dose of gratitude and active contemplation of the fact that one had access to sustenance;  eating was often a communal activity.

And that is exactly what is being proposed. Spanda, as always, works to achieve dialogue to improve mutual understanding and respect, but here we have the pleasurable situation of having at our disposal a communication-facilitating means (food) that could make reaching our goal so much easier (dialogue). Throughout the workshop Spanda will frequently serve food, which will hopefully help to create an informal, relaxed atmosphere to make us all feel at ease. The dishes all have a twist to them: Each round will bring food from a different religious tradition, with the last round serving from all three. Of course all the courses will conform to Jewish and Islamic standards and requirements.

Naturally, a workshop is not only organised in order to talk. Spanda would like to know more about its participants, but primarily about the way they think – what are the characteristic stereotypes & prejudices (if any) from the different groups? By partaking in a survey – the first part of which needs to be completed before the workshop, the latter part at the end of it – Spanda hopes to gain valuable information about (initial) prejudices, stereotypes, other unforeseen or typical individual (or group-religious) behaviour. The second part of the survey serves a controlling and reflective function because organising and participating in a workshop will undoubtedly have its effects, but the question remains what this effect will be.

And this Spanda hopes to be able to pin down as precisely as possible. Control questions are not only a reflective medium for those who will have taken part in our project, but also for Spanda herself. What factors influence religious tolerance? In what way could this be used to lessen social tensions? Would it be possible to interpret the data and create a model for action? This organisation has many ideals, but at least an equal number of questions. We want answers.