OneVoice Europe participated in the annual Living Islam Festival on July 31 in London. The Festival is a national celebration of British Islam that encourages Muslims in the UK to think about their faith. Several thousand people attended this year, providing OVE another opportunity to expand its reach and engage as many people as possible about peace.
While a thriving bazaar and an array of workshops, activities, and food stalls added to the festive post-Eid mood, there was also a more somber side to the event. Many of the charities present spoke about the devastation in Gaza, and there were appeals for aid for those affected by the recent escalation in violence.
OneVoice was a unique presence at the festival, with our focus on conflict resolution providing a constructive angle on what many see as a desperate situation. Most of the people who approached us supported a two-state solution and the end to the occupation, and emphasized the common humanity they saw between all civilians who had been caught in the conflict, regardless of their nationality.
We also hosted two workshops during the festival, offering political background and analysis as well as an overview of OneVoice’s work. We received lots of positive interest in our Outreach and Education Program, including from school representatives. Although the sessions were at times highly emotional, including a minute’s silence for the recent victims of the conflict, attendees maintained a pragmatic discussion about how to reach a solution. We gained 40 new members and a huge amount of support for our work, including queries about volunteering.
In Britain, there is a tendency for events in the Middle East to affect the way that communities are treated here- disturbingly, Jewish groups have reported a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the latest offensive began. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that people with strong feelings about the conflict are given a platform from which to discuss their views and worries while learning about the work of peace-seeking elements on both sides.
The Living Islam Festival provided exactly this kind of opportunity and sent out a message of inclusivity: far from being a ‘Muslim’ issue, the events in Gaza are drawing together British people from all backgrounds who want to see an end to the fighting.
Sharon Alsoodani is OneVoice Europe’s Outreach Director.