By: Alden Jacobs
A View from Afar, The Home for Cooperation Up Close
Peace, like war, has a frontline. Where people push for a cause they believe in. The Home for Cooperation in Nicosia wants peace, the people working there want peace, those who visit want peace and they won’t give up the progress they've made nor the progress they plan to make. It’s too great, too important and too beautiful. And they shouldn't have to. Unlike any approach to war, every approach to peace has value. Every sincere initiative exposes it’s potential through action. The H4C’s mission is not only lasting, but visibly and emotionally palpable. The approach is friendly, never about forcing people to find peace but allowing them to. Maybe, just maybe, the difficulty is accepting an informal approach to peace. Taking it back from the “above our heads political arena” and pulling it down to reality, where the people who have to live it are waiting for the next step. Not allowing someone else to take ownership of the process but actually engaging in something that feels so challenging on your own. And then you realize, it doesn't have to be a challenge. It can be fun, rewarding and even edible. By not accepting that one approach is more valuable than another, the routes to peace are expanded. There then simply becomes more ways to get there, with more people finding their own way. Maybe even a shortcut or two, that get normal citizens there faster than the flag bearing diplomatic cars of institutional peace. And what a beautiful sight it would be for those diplomats to find, that all their hard work is actually worth something because the people are pushing forward with them and not hiding behind inaction.
The inventive approach of the Home for Cooperation combines peace with music, art, culture and food. All elements of a healthy reality. This is the oasis of the buffer zone, that entices the ready with a chance. A chance to improve themselves through expanded understanding of a situation they are already a piece of. Not only understanding but skills that maximize understanding. Possibly the best example is language. Language is culture, communication and showing an effort to learn is a clear sign of respect with a desire to engage. Every project at the Home for Cooperation is carefully thought out to welcome all communities, all ages and all opinions. What kind of activities embrace a culture of peace? Education comes first, and the H4C tackles it both formally and informally. Either way, the great part of education is that it is a process. You don't have to learn anything in particular as long as you are invested. It facilitates communication, it builds confidence and becomes shared knowledge between those who take part. The Home knows that peacebuilding activities don’t have to teach communities about each other, instead it aims to bring people together by responding to the communities needs and motivating people from both sides to take part in mutually interesting activities. A buffer zone classic is the Thursday Lives music nights. A chance not only for musicians to share the experience with colleagues from other communities but also for the audience to find happiness in the same experience, together. Other, ever popular, classics are the available language courses and workshops. Not only in Turkish and Greek but in other languages as well and complemented by the more active dance and art workshops including Salsa and Djembe drumming. A time to share but also try something new. Then there are activities beyond the confines of the buffer zone, that venture into the lively reality that surrounds it. By bike or on foot, cities are meant to be explored. The Home for Cooperation is fortunate enough to have the support of academics and historians, willing to bridge any division of understanding. And back to the buffer zone again, this time by the initiative of others and their own prerogatives. It’s a space to hold conferences, meetings and small celebrations. Beyond it all, with international support, comes the Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival. This November, Nicosia’s faucet will be flowing with avant-garde creative expression from around the world and everyone is welcome. These performances are guaranteed to please, find the details @bufferfringe. All of these are just a little sample, there is so much more, with so much more to come.
The Home Cafe is no exception. It is the aura, the vibe, that makes peace tangible. Food joins people and so do comfortable spaces. The host of events, a library and endless conversations ending in laughter. It is the nourishment to a healthy spirit of inter communal dialogue.
The world may someday thank you, for the Home in your own backyard is shaping the understudied contribution of community peacebuilding. It is the frontline in more than one dimension. Yes, it mixes two communities but it also expands our understanding of what peacebuilding can be. Expand yours and join the Home for Cooperation for the third annual Buffer Fringe from November 10-12, 2016. Poland, Spain, Israel, Norway, Germany and France have already RSVP’d. Forget the buffer, fringe yourself.