The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the summer of 2014 brought protest marches and a peace vigil to our City amid tensions between different communities across the country. Many of those who felt it was right to protest, also felt uneasiness during the protest at some of the slogans and the climate was ripe for misunderstanding. This led the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum to work in collaboration with others, to bring people together, to start a dialogue and try to find a better way for all of us start to understand the complexities of the issue.

With support from Salaam Shalom, BMFF organised a series of three events entitled ‘Two Sided Story’. All were hosted at St Nicholas of Tolentino Roman Catholic Church and facilitated by experienced colleagues affiliated with Salaam Shalom. The first event on 13th November looked at: ‘Where do we stand? Going beyond protest and into conversation’. The second event was the showing of the documentary ‘Two Sided Story’ followed by a discussion and the third event was a facilitated discussion focussing on ‘Our reflections and where do we take them from here?’

The aims of the series of events were to: Build deeper awareness of the effects of the conflict on both Israelis and Palestinians; Sensitise us to the effects of the conflict on people in Bristol; Develop a greater awareness of the complexity of the situation; Help us build bridges across cultures and beliefs; Provide an opportunity to really listen to other points of view; Help us to humanise ‘the other’ in the conflict and locally; Let people be heard and express themselves as fully as possible; Provide options to think together into the future.

There was a lot going on in November and attendance from communities was lacking. This again reinforces the urgency for faith communities to put processes in place to engage with their own community members, giving a sense of purpose and understanding as to why community members should consider attending events and talks or participate in the civic life of the City.

Overall however, the feedback was good and a difficult dialogue took place, facilitated by the very able facilitators Kalsoom Bashir and Peter Brill, who is from Bristol and West Progressive Synagogue. The event was also attended by members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who found it useful and effective.