By
Su Riddell
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16 May, 2013

Friendship, vision and Afghan curry

At the end of the weekend
At the end of the weekend

On Saturday 4 May a lucky group of Creators of Peace Circle facilitators were cooked a delicious Afghan dinner by Shabibi Shah, at the IofC house in Oxford, start to a 24-hour planning session, aimed at refreshing our vision and developing new directions. Over Sunday we took time in reflection, did an exercise to map out the areas of outreach and community involvement we already undertake individually, and identified and discussed the issues we see in our communities and globally which we feel are our priorities. By the end of the day we’d arrived at some inspiring but practical plans for our next steps with Peace Circles and as an emerging team.

Shabibi Shah preparing dinner, with Harpreet watching
Shabibi Shah preparing dinner, with Harpreet watching
Barbara Down from Newcastle wrote afterwards, 'It was wonderful to meet up and feel part of a powerful group of women who, ordinary as we are, can really make a difference. I am keen to have a Peace Circle here in Newcastle next year, as it is something that my friends all seem to respond to.'

Harpreet Kaur, studying in Bristol, said, 'The weekend was inspirational, catching up with old friends and making new ones, different generations and cultures coming together with a shared commitment to creating peace. I feel more positive about the immediate future, about how my studies complement the work I am doing with IofC, I see things coming together. I have reminded myself to slow down and take care of myself - I can say no and it's ok. I look forward to seeing my peace circle friends again over skype or in person; the latter would be preferable as we always manage to enjoy a delightful feast from a different part of the world!'

Samah Bushra, from North Sudan now living in Oxford, who also took part in a day of training to facilitate the Creators of Peace Circle, reported that, 'Last weekend was really inspiring to me. I met wonderful experienced women who encouraged me with optimism. I got new skills in how to be a facilitator in peace circles and I am very excited to start one. I know new friends who added me to the Oxford local community group as I am new in Oxford and supported me with practical advice to settle in the city. From sharing ideas as well as exercises, I am inspired to think about future creators of peace projects for the local community.'

Samah, Harpreet and Saba
Samah, Harpreet and Saba
Saba Alina Bilqis, who took these photos, and also had a day of facilitation training, wrote about the weekend, 'I was really excited about finally getting training to become a Creators of Peace Circle facilitator. I had been waiting eagerly since I experienced a peace circle in 2012. I found the peace circle to be a healing tool and empowering to women that want to understand peace and eventually make positive contributions to creating peace wherever they are.

'I have lived in Bradford for more than three years as a student at the University of Bradford during which I have spent much of my free time doing women activism work in various communities including at national level as a Black Women’s Rep in the National Union of Students Women’s Campaign. In Bradford particularly I have been touched by the lives of women refugees and the traumatic experiences that I have heard during the time I have spent here. Having understood more the complexities and issues that these women have gone through, still seeking healing of their past hurts, I feel compelled that Peace Circles can be beneficial to their healing while contributing to peace in their hearts, homes and the new communities they have settled into.

With immigration debates on the tongue of local politicians, I feel more and more women in migrant and refugee communities feel withdrawn from making positive contributions to the community. I believe peace circles might be just one way to break this cycle of conflict. I hope to run them throughout my region, where government settles most of the refugees that come through the Gateway Programme. 

I am quite excited and grateful that I have support from CoP UK to carry out this project.'

Sharing time with the string game
Sharing time with the string game
Other topics which different ones of us are have ideas to explore, are the problem of food waste in this country, human trafficking and linking with the Sustainable Communities work on this subject, and seeking fruitful partnerships within and outside IofC. One decision is to include celebrating women’s peace-creating abilities in all we do. And maybe the most important decision of all is to support and encourage one another, so we don’t overstretch ourselves and yet reach as far as our inspiration can take us.

Photos by Saba Alina Bilqis

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