In February 2019, Muslim girls from a homework club at a community centre and Christian girls from a local church met for the first time. It was Shirley who brought them together. Shirley volunteers at the community centre. She is also a youth leader at her church.
Shirley has had a heart for building bridges across community divides for a long time. She heard about The Feast through someone else at her church and thought it would be a great idea for the girls. She approached The Feast for help in setting up an encounter. The girls were very shy of each other at the first encounter. But after some getting-to-know-you ice-breakers and sitting together painting plates, they relaxed. Over pizza they asked each other questions about their favourite day of the year, what they loved about their respective faiths, and what they wanted to get better at in their respective faiths.
Shirley decided it would be good to get a few more encounters in the diary. With the help of The Feast, the girls met again in May to do a scavenger hunt in town, followed by dessert. This time, the conversations were a little deeper – the girls talked about “other-ism” and how people often treat someone who is “other” to them.
The girls met again in July, when we visited a local museum and sat in their café afterwards to chat. One of the Christian girls had recently been baptised and wanted to tell the Muslim girls about what that meant to her. It was just after Ramadan, and the Muslim girls shared with the Christian girls what fasting had meant to them.
The final encounter together was in October when we went trampolining together and had pizza. We talked about how we discuss opinions when people have different points of views – something they had all experienced, be it at home with siblings or in school.
Alongside the encounters dotted throughout the year, Shirley also got the girls working together on a social action project. Shirley runs a holiday club in half terms for younger children. She roped the girls into being young leaders at the holiday club. Working together on a joint project helped the girls develop in their friendship with one another.
Watching the girls become more comfortable with one another over the course of the year has been very exciting. Within the space of a year, the girls have got to a point where they have exchanged phone numbers and are developing friendship with one another apart from Feast youth encounters. There is a deep appreciation of one another which speaks of genuine friendship.
This is what making peace looks like – taking a step out of our comfort zones to meet someone different to us, taking an interest in them and getting to know them better over fun, food and dialogue, and working on something together for the good of others
Go, girls! We are cheering you on as you grow into adult peace-makers