Prayer for peace in the Middle East - event organised by Center of Excellence
As a Member Development Officer at Young Barnet, one of the groups that I have the pleasure of supporting is the Center of Excellence. I was invited to attend their Prayer for Peace in the Middle East event on Friday 19 November 2023, held at CoE’s space on the Concourse in Grahame Park.
Immediately on entering, for me, two features of this event marked it out as something different – first, the mix of people who had turned up to be there from across the Barnet community, including people from the local Somali community, who are predominantly Muslim, members of the local Jewish community, representatives from the local authority and local councilors.
And something else, the palpably charged emotional atmosphere in the room, which was not surprising given the ambitions of this event, which were to bring people together to share personal reflections, to create a safe space where different perspectives from across Barnet could be heard, and to fortify cross-community communication and relationships.
The main event had no formal agenda and a beguiling simplicity. Attendees were invited to take a seat in the main CoE room and a selection of those assembled were called, in turn, to offer a short reflection or prayer for peace. We heard from Muslim members of the Center of Excellence team, the Jewish President of Barnet’s Multifaith Forum – Esmond Rosen, the Chief Executive of Barnet Council - John Hooton, local Councilors’, other faith leaders and representatives of local community groups and not-for-profits.
The room was therefore filled with people who don’t routinely share a space in this way, without a formal agenda but with a common purpose. Unsurprisingly, the short reflections approached the theme of the event from many different angles, diverse contributions were listened to with respect and were often insightful and moving.
The final part of this event moved attendees into another shared space where delicious Somali food and tea was served. Conversations and exchanges continued for more than another half an hour. Many people commented that this was their first experience of this kind event in Barnet, with the hope that there will be more to come.
We want to congratulate the Center of Excellence team for leading the way by creating this safe and hospitable space for people to come together. CoE’s Prayer for Peace event provided a platform for cross-community dialogue. Young Barnet Foundation will continue to support them in their endeavors. To the CoE Team – thank you, we hope that you continue your work in helping to build up your community and further strengthen relationships across the community in Barnet as a whole.