Kalsoom Bashir- Co-Director of Inspire, addressed the audience at this year’s Anne Spencer Memorial Lecture organised by the University of Bristol’s MultiFaith Chaplaincy on Wednesday 27th of April 2016.
Kalsoom’s address followed a talk by Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian and peaceworker on the importance of Muslim-Jewish relations in the UK and Rabbi Monique Mayer.
The text of Kalsoom’s closing statement follows:
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
Peace radiates outwards and in order for it to take root we all bear a responsibility to impact within our sphere of influence.
Increasing parts of the world are becoming battlegrounds and although distant, these war zones and areas of conflict are brought into our homes and play upon our emotions testing the tolerance that has been traditionally at the forefront of our communities in the UK.
Our Jewish neighbours fear they are being held to account for events far beyond their control. Similarly, Muslim communities feel under threat from those who blame them for the actions of others.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the summer of 2014 brought protest marches and a peace vigil to our City amid tensions between different communities across the country.
Many felt it was right to protest but also felt unease at things they were hearing and felt the climate was ripe for misunderstanding. I felt that it was not acceptable that there were those that felt fearful of people like me- Muslims because of the protests and that I I could not allow that fear to take hold and fester.
I accepted the invitation to be a facilitator at the two sided dialogue events not because I was an expert on the Israeli Palestinian issue-far from it in fact. But because I felt a personal obligation to do what I could to bring neighbors together to help humanize one another and in doing so challenge the dehumanization of the other,
In facilitating dialogue, we were clear it was not facilitating debate, This was to be conversation in which the participants’ primary goal was to pursue mutual understanding rather than agreement or immediate solutions.
We hoped it would give an opportunity to learn about the perspectives of others. And that participants reflect on their own views.
I can’t say with rose coloured spectacles that it was easy or without challenge. Members of Bristols Muslim communities were low in attendance but were represented. It was a start.
We made it clear that we were not there to solve ‘the problem’ but hopes concerns, fears and frustrations were shared, listened to and heard. It was a sold foundation upon which we could move forward and I am pleased that the work of the Multi faith forum and salam shalom in the city continues.
Why I took part despite my reservations can be summed up in a story from Islamic tradition that I would like to share with you
Prophet Ibrahim and the small bird or Ababeel as it is called in the quran.
When Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) was thrown into fire for refusing to worship idols, a small bird was taking a drop of water and dashing towards the fire. A crow asked the bird what would he do with this drop of water. The fire was massive and a mere drop of water won’t help in any way. The bird replied that on the day of judgement, God would question him of what he had done to extinguish the fire in which the Prophet Abraham was thrown. He said, “I am sure God will not ask me whether I managed to put out the fire or not, but God will ask what I did to stop the fire”. The fact was that the fire wouldn’t get any colder but at least his drop of water, his responsibility, and his contributions were there. I wanted to be counted amongst those that tried.