Friday, 27 May 2011

Mango peace building at the IEPC and beyond

One of my abiding memories of the IEPC will be of eating mangoes every day fresh from the tree, the juice, the delicous sour-sweetness, the hairy stone in the middle to be sucked. There were mango trees wherever we walked on the campus of the University of the West Indies and it was difficult to resist picking up the fallen ripe fruit from the ground. There were lovely stories of people from the local organizing turning up with bags of particularly ripe mangoes from their our trees - "you really must eat these today, they're just right". So abundant, so sensual, so sticky and glorious, and so irresistable. I even overheard a conversation where someone from India was telling a companion who was stooping down to pick one up, "You know there is a theory that the tree in the garden of Eden was a mango tree". Tempting mangoes as the forbidden fruit, honestly I don't think Adam and Eve would even have needed a serpent to whisper in their ears, the perfume of the fruit would suffice. I have a personal pet theory - completely unscientific - that the mango may contain everything that is needed to sustain life.

As we walked and hurried and sweated from one event to the next, this image of abundance, nourishment and refreshment was all around us. In many of the workshops and meetings we were hearing stories of terrible suffering and pain. People spoke sometimes from a sense of helplessness, demands were made for someone to do something, the Church, the world, the UN ... The final message tried to weave some of all of this together.

Many of us from the Peace Convocation have already left Jamaica, I shall leave myself tomorrow. What do we take away with us? Extraordinary stories from often desperate situations, questions more than answers, ideas for ways forwards evoked rather than set in stone, but true expressions also of real pain and frustration, and of embodied tangible hope.

As each of us returns to our own contexts we try to take the fruits of the IEPC back with us. some of us may even pack a mango or two into our suitcases. Perhaps the perfume, generosity and juiciness of the mangoes all around us in Kingston will inspire our continued peace-making. A promise that peace can become as abundant as war-mongering and violence seems to be; a promise that peace can be shared by all; a promise that things don't quite taste the same at home as they did here but that we can share hope and experience.

I'm looking forward to sharing some abundant sweet and sensual mango peacebuilding. The fruits we have to share are less about knowledge and more about perfume. The time is ripe for peace with justice.