London smiles as the Olympic Truce flag flies in Westminster

The Olympic Truce flag flies from St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, during London’s Olympic Games.

The Olympic Truce flag has been flying in the heart of London, between the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

A surge of goodwill during London 2012 and the forging of a renewed British identity has been recognised: more relaxed, at ease with its pluralism and “where people were full of ideas and worked for the common good” (Sarah Crompton, Daily Telegraph).

British gold medalists have come from a wide range of backgrounds.  After stunning performances from Mo Farah, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford last weekend, the Twitter joke ran, “A Muslim, a mixed race lass & a ginger bloke walk into a bar.  Everyone gets them a drink.”  Sneering and bullying suddenly dropped right out of fashion.

The prominence of female athletes has been noted.  Commentators have been surprised to recognise, in non-Olympic times, women’s relative absence from public life as hard-working and successful members of society.

Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian,

We got a glimpse of another kind of Britain.

A place which succeeds brilliantly, not least by drawing equally on all its talents, black and white, male and female.

A place where money and profit are not the only values, exemplified by the 70,000 volunteers who made the Games work and showed the world a smiling face while they were at it.

A place that reveres not achievement-free celebrity, but astonishing skill, granite determination and good grace.

Religious and community groups have been working together before and during the Games – offering hospitality, training on non-violent responses to conflict, inter faith walks, breaking the Ramadan fast with visitors, creating City Safe Havens, ringing bells for the Olympic Truce, arts festivals, fighting hate crime, questioning the narratives surrounding armed conflict, twinned projects exploring  minorities and majorities in Pakistan and in the UK – and more.  Much of this has been seen on the pages of the London Peace Network blog.

The 70,000 volunteer Gamesmakers have won plaudits from the President of the International Olympic Committee who praised “the kindness of the volunteers“.  The Telegraph writes, “For the duration of the Olympics, London has put a smile on its face.”

For many local communities – which are often at the sharp end of violence both here in the UK and overseas – generosity of spirit, fair play, understanding and negotiating difference, living peacefully together and a smile are all highly valued.  This is what the members of the London Peace Network are engaged in, day in, day out, and what they will be promoting as part of the Olympic Truce all summer.  Watch this space for news of a significant burst of activities on 21 September.

Coming soon . . Waterloo Festival 12 – 17 July

Action-packed festival on War and Peace.   Find inspiration & join in – there’s  a lot on offer: concerts, inter faith art exhibition with works from Samir Malik and Siddaqa Juma, Paradise Street theatre, drop-in art workshops, talks, tours at St John’s Church, Waterloo, London SE1 8TY.

Everyone is invited to bring a dove of peace to add to the display.

Download the full brochure and the flyer for Is Peace Possible in a World of Diminishing Resources?

Don’t miss the World Première of Orlando Gough’s Waterloo Canticle 2: Love is Strong as Death, specially commissioned for the Festival, setting poetry from Beirut alongside words from the Song of Solomon sung in Hebrew and Arabic.

Inter Faith Walks 14 – 15 July

Inter Faith Walks 14 – 15 July

One of the very best ways to meet  local people from different religious traditions – or none – walking and talking together, discovering the unexpected.

South London Inter Faith Group has been encouraging local inter faith walks for years.

This year, all the south London boroughs and some in north London are organising inter faith walks on the weekend of 14th – 15th July.

Join in or organise your own!

Britain Tastes Great – now running

Britain Tastes Great – now running

As the world looks at London this summer, HOPE not Hate encourages us to celebrate modern Britain – a kaleidoscope of colours and cultures.  Get together with your neighbours, schools, places of worship, community organisations and plan a delicious meal.  Britain Tastes Great is looking for dishes that define modern Britain – add your own!

For the really adventurous, people can host their own event. This can be a house party, a picnic in the park or in the local community centre. We’ll be encouraging churches, mosques, temples and local sports centres to open their doors to the local community and share food.

The new website is now up – lots of recipes, map of event and much more – Britain Tastes Great.

Ramadan Festival 20 July – 19 August

Ramadan Festival 20 July – 19 August

The Ramadan Festival will bring together people from different faiths (and none).  They will eat supper and break the fast together in a local mosque during the month of Ramadan.  They will share the atmosphere that is created at such a special time of year for Muslims.

Ramadan is a time of giving, of charity, of sharing, of remembering those in need and reaching out.

These are all qualities embodied by the Olympics too and we are excited to be able to combine those at the same time this year.

All eyes will be on the UK and especially on London. It gives all of us the chance to showcase the fantastic diversity that we celebrate and hold so dearly in Great Britain.

This year Ramadan falls between 20th July and 19th August, although the exact dates depend on the sighting of the moon.

If your mosque would like to take part, please contact the Islamic Society of Britain.  The Ramadan Festival is part of the 2012 Hours Against Hate coalition.