When we think of peacebuilding, we might picture men in ties, sitting around conference room tables, negotiating war-ending treaties. While that scenario has been historically accurate, it is but one scene through a viewfinder. All of us have the opportunity to build peace or foment its absence with our words and actions.
Peace is personal. For some of us, peace might mean safe streets where our kids can play at night. For others, peace is having reliable access to clean water. Art is a universal language for conflict resolution, reconciliation, healing, and the empowerment of marginalized groups because it promotes understanding of diverse perspectives. FusionFest, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating the diversity of people and culture in central Florida, builds peace by holding art and culture events celebrating cultural diversity and exploring how we can influence one another. As FusionFest founder Terry Olsen explained, we can be at peace with ourselves when we feel like we have value. “FusionFest gives different cultures a place to be seen, known, heard, and valued.”
“When people learn to celebrate and learn from each other, there is much less tension between people with differences. Bringing different types of people together – showing them respect and interest – makes me very happy and creates a more joyful, peaceful community,” Terry shared. One FusionFest event offered food representing the different cultures living in central Florida. Attendees were invited to taste their way around the world. In another Fusion event, local chefs competed to create a dish using a variety of ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques from different cultures to create something new. Other events have centered on music, spoken word, fashion, and dance.
Recently, our Community team hosted A Palette for Peace, an online event exploring peacebuilding through culture with Fusion Fest. Attendees learned how they can peacebuild in their own communities through art and culture. Tips about how all of us can use our gifts to increase our capacity to care for those different from ourselves, connect more deeply, and love anyway were shared. Terry emphasized the importance of bridging divides on the individual level in three simple steps:
- Understand your own heritage. Know what makes you who you are.
- Share about your heritage as you learn about others’ heritages.
- Fuse them together to create something new.
We invite you to peacebuild in your community. Experience a new culture through food, art, music, or dance. Consider hosting a Gathering with people different from yourself. Sign up for our newsletter to follow our peacebuilding efforts around the world. Now is always the time to show up, listen, and love anyway.