Thursday, 25 August 2011

WHAT role does religion play in a conflicted world? Does it make the human propensity towards violence more pronounced, or can it help bring peace? If so - when, why and how?

This afternoon (Thursday 25 August, 5.30pm – 6.45pm) some leading thinkers about these problems come together for a public dialogue on the issues involved. 'Not Peace But A Sword' will take place at St John’s Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh - as part of the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace, and co-sponsored by Ekklesia.

Fresh from his experience talking with Hamas and the religious right in Israel, Oliver McTernan, a former Roman Catholic priest and broadcaster, and author of Violence in God’s Name will engage in conversation with historian Owen Dudley Edwards and church historian Lesley Orr.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Imam Faisal arriving in Edinburgh

A PROMINENT American Muslim leader, author and activist involved with the creation of a peacemaking Islamic community centre near Ground Zero in New York, arrives Scotland on Friday 26 August for a series of talks and events connected with the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh.

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf will be speaking at a discussion on 9/11, entitled ‘The Day the World Changed’, on Saturday 27 August, from 9.30 to 10.30am at St John’s Church, Lothian Road, and on Wednesday 31 August, from 6.30 to 8.00pm. at Wellington Church, University Avenue, Glasgow.
He will also be receiving a Peace Award at the closing event of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, on Sunday 28 August, at 6.00pm at St John’s Church, and will be meeting religious and civic leaders while he is here.

Tickets for the Edinburgh conversation (£6 or £4 concessions, free to under1 8s and claimants) from Hub Tickets, Castlehill, Edinburgh (http://www.hubtickets.co.uk/auto_choose_ga.asp?area=1188), or on the door - though getting advanced tickets is highly recommended.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Examining the Arab revolutions

AS IMAGES of the fast-changing situations in Libya and Syria continue to flash across our television and computer screens, what is going on undereath the surface?  

Moreover, what is the 'Arab Spring' all about?  Can largely non-violent revolt succeed in the face of armed dictatorship?

These and other urgent questions will be explored in major sessions at the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh this weekend. Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf from New York is among the prominent speakers taking part. The full Festival programme is here.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The ethics of finance

WITH our societies reeling once more from the shock of the near collapse of global financial systems, what can we learn from what happened to prevent a recurrence?

What principles should underpin banking in a market-based economy? If we were designing the system from scratch – or indeed drawing on the practical wisdom of the faith communities - what would it look like?

This is the focus of a discussion at the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace with Susan Rice, Managing Director of Lloyds Banking Group, Scotland, and Omar Shaikh from the Islamic Finance Council.

They will be in conversation on Tuesday 23 August, from 12.30pm – 1.30pm, at St John’s Church, Princes St, Edinburgh, with Charles Munn, former Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland and now Chair of the Church of Scotland Special Commission on the Purposes of Economic Activity.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Top recitalists play Edinburgh

LEADING recitalists Evelina Puzaité, a concert pianist, originally from Lithuania, and oboe maestro Andrius Puskunigis, also Lithuanian, are travelling from London and France respectively this week, especially to perform their Scottish Premiere in at the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh.

There is more on their background here.  Evelina and Andrius will play pieces from their new Schumann CD, interspersed with a variety of international musical greats – Chopin, Rachmaninov, Liszt, Rossini, Piazzolla, and Prokofiev.

Both performers are convinced that music can play a significant role in awakening the human spirit and bringing a longing for harmony and peace in a troubled world.

The concert takes place at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, on Friday 26 August 2011, at 7.30pm. Tickets £10 / £8 (children free) from the Hub: 0131 473 2000 www.hubtickets.co.uk or on the door. 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Thinking more imaginatively

HOW we see and think about the world shapes our responses to each other, and what we produce by way of interventions and effects.

A fascinating conversation about how to distinguish 'wood from trees' and what is entailed in interpreting the world, texts, each other and much more took place at lunchtime on Saturday 20 August at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

Over recent centuries, has there been a drift towards literalism, fundamentalism and scientism in western culture. It was suggested that this ‘left brain chauvinism’ can make us dangerously unaware of all that the right brain can offer – the big picture, meaning, metaphor and spirituality.

Iain McGilchrist, psychiatrist and writer (author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Modern World) explored these issues with Dr Joe Bouch, consultant psychiatrist and editor of Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, and John Munro, philosophy of science graduate, retired Church of Scotland minister and member of the Scottish Institute of Human Relations.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Finding a desert in the city?

SOME say that monastic communities are an escape from reality, others that they are a journey into reality where you cannot hide from God, from others – or from yourself.

Which is it? Dom Mark Caira, Abbot of Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw and Sister Candasiri of the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery looks at the issues in conversation with Ruth Scott, Anglican priest, writer and broadcaster, who for many years has worked with a number of religious orders as a facilitator. Saturday 20 August, 11am – 12noon St John’s Church, Edinburgh.

This is an important theme for the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which is bringing together some 25,000 people for 300 performances and 200 events across 15 venues in Scotland's capital. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A brave new future?

GENETIC modification, synthetic biology, nuclear power, stem cells,  nanomedicine, smart homes, surveillance, perhaps even enhancing the  human body and mind.

But a crumbling mural at Chernobyl shows that new technological promises do not always mean progress for humans or God’s world.  What values should govern our potential for good or ill in this complex area?

Dr Donald Bruce from Edinethics and former director of the Society, Religion and Technology Project of the Church of Scotland joins in conversation with Professor Kenneth Boyd, Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Edinburgh on Sunday 21 August, 12.30pm  – 1.30pm at St John’s Church.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Feeding heart and soul

MARTIN Aelred is among those performing at Sacred Space at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in St John's Church this coming week.

The singer-songwriter promises to "feed your heart and soul" on Monday lunchtime, 22 August (12.15-1pm and free).

Sacred Space is an opportunity to experience the stillness and peace of a beautiful church. It provides music and silence in the midst of a busy festival.

Spend an half an hour with some of Edinburgh’s finest musicians in one of its most stunning buildings. Open to those of all faiths or of none.

The upcoming roster is: Monday 22, Martin Aelred –Voice and Guitar; Tuesday 23, Sacred Sphere with Mio Shapley – Harp; Wednesday 24, Norman Lamont – Wave forms – gentle layers of sound;  Thursday 25, Ben Kearsley – Classical Guitar.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The music of nature

YORK harpist and contemporary composer Ruby Paul has premiered her new work at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace on Monday evening, 15 August 2011.

The concert took place at 6pm, at St John’s Church Hall, Princes Street. Ruby introduced Encyclopedia Botanica to the audience. The work is a series of 15 mood pieces for solo harp inspired by the flowers and plants from across the British Isles.

“Each piece has the title of a wild flower, like ‘Poppy’ or ‘Daisy’ or ‘Bee Orchid’,” explains Ruby Paul to the York Press newspaper. “They’re mainly very common flowers and plants, all the things I experienced and enjoyed in my childhood growing up on the Gower Peninsular, south of Swansea, near Caswell, about a mile from the sea.”

More from the York Press here.  

Monday, 15 August 2011

Taxation, common wealth and faith

A CENTRAL precept of most religious traditions is giving money for the poor, and various kinds of economic sharing within communities.  

In a complex modern society, does taxation serve the same purpose, or distort it?  How should ‘public goods’ such as health, education, security, foreign affairs  - and government itself - be paid for?

The coversation on Taxation and the Commonweal at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality and Peace will feature a dialogue involving Eben Wilson, director of TaxpayerScotland (the name for the TaxPayers’ Alliance in Scotland) and Kathy Galloway, head of Christian Aid Scotland, Bill Jamieson, writer on finance and economics for the Scotsman newspaper and Frank Whaling, Emeritus Professor of the Study of Religion, Edinburgh University.

The meeting takes place on Tuesday 16 August, from 12.30pm – 1.30pm, at St John’s Church, Princes St, Edinburgh.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Positive faith messages on HIV

BREAKING the stigma and silence around HIV and AIDS is vital to tackling the issue locally and globally, said Winnie Sseruma, a Ugandan Catholic who has lived with HIV for 23 years, at a powerful discussion as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace today.

Among the issues discussed was how preachers help or hinder the spread of AIDS, particularly in Africa. Ms Sseruma works with Christian Aid on awareness and action programmes.

She was in conversation at St John's Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, with Oonagh O’Brien from the Institute for International Health and Development at Queen Margaret University and Ewan Aitken of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland.

Since “Christianity reaches more people than healthcare” it matters what the churches and other faith communities say about HIV/AIDS, the panel declared: not just because of their reach, but because of their authority within the lives of millions of people. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

More on Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

BISHOP Christopher Senyonjo, who is speaking at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh today, spent his entire ministerial career prior to his 1998 retirement in Uganda.

From 1974 until 1998, he was the Anglican Diocesan Bishop of West Buganda at Masaka. He completed a DMin at Hartford Theological Seminary, USA, which was key to his understanding of marriage and human sexuality, two areas which would define his later career.

Following his retirement from the bishopric, Senyonjo began counselling services for singles and married people. His pastoral work with LGBT people in Uganda and beyond began in 2001.

In 2010, he founded St Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre for LGBTQ/Straight Alliance. Bishop Senyonjo has been a keynote speaker at a number of international human rights conferences, including two at the United Nations in 2010.

These two conferences helped to reinstate language protecting LGBT people against “extra-judicial” killings.

Bishop Senyonjo is in Edinburgh from 9-16 August 2011. He arrives in San Diego, USA, on 18 August and will be visiting California, Portland, Minnesota, Chicago, Boston, Washington, New Jersey and New York.

He will receive the Unitas Award from Union Theological Seminary before leaving the USA on 24 October. More here.

Uganda and 'sexual apartheid'

POLITICIANS, church leaders and others in Uganda, Ghana and elsewhere in Africa have whipped up dangerous surges of hatred against gay people. Uganda considered a bill that would make homosexuality a capital crime. 

In the midst of this storm, Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an Anglican, has courageously stood up for LGBT dignity and rights, campaigned against ‘sexual apartheid’, and shown enormous Christian and pastoral courage in the face of opposition, exclusion and even death threats.

The Bishop, whom the Huffington Post named ‘one of the ten most influential religious figures in the world’ in 2010, demonstrates what it means to have conviction and faith enough to side with all those whom Jesus called “the least of these my sisters and brothers.”

Bishop Senyonjo is currently on tour in North America and Europe. At the Festival of Spirituality and Peace he joins conversation with John Watson from Amnesty International in a compelling event entitled 'The worst Place in the World to be Gay?'

It takes place on Saturday 13 August, 12.30pm  – 1.30pm, at St John’s Church, Princes St, Edinburgh. All welcome.

Health and wholeness

THERE is a good body of research in the scientific domain demonstrating positive possibilities in the relationship between spirituality and health, based on the stimulation of our bodies' natural healing processes. 

However, many people believe that best practice in the National Health Service has still not come to terms with ideas of holistic health which for others remain essential for the most effective practice of modern healthcare.

How can we encourage scientific medicine to rediscover its long forgotten art, and to practice holistic (or whole) healing? Is 'evidence-based medicine' failing to look in some important places for its evidence? What are the challenges holistic methods need to face up to in a science-based health environment?

This conversation at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace on Saturday 13 August, 11am – 12 noon, at St John’s Church, features Dr Geoff Lachlan, a former general surgeon who has produced interfaith and belief spiritual resources for use in NHS Scotland and Dr Vinod Kumar, a GP who now practices Ayurvedic medicine - both talking with Professor Kenneth Boyd, Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Edinburgh.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Creation through evolution

IN the biblical book of Genesis, God is portrayed as declaring ‘Let there be light’, and the world process comes into being. 

Much heat, but a lot less light, has been generated over the issue of whether creation stories in sacred texts clash with or complement scientific accounts of creation - or whether they are quite different languages which nevertheless point in a common direction. 

At the heart of this issue lie different views about the nature and interpretation of the texts – and, consequently, the relationship between faith and science.  At 9.30pm on Saturday 13 August, these issues are explored by Professor Sam Berry, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London and author of Real Scientists, Real Faith and Sheikh Ruzwan Mohammed. They are in conversation with Ewan Aitken of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland.

The picture shows the 'creation window' at Chester Cathedral.

What are we doing when we pray?

THE nature of prayer was the subject of a fascinating conversation at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Scotland's capital earlier today. 

For many people prayer is effective in transforming people and attitudes, bringing us closer to God, to each other and to the loving purpose at the heart of the world. Other see it as contributing to the altering of events and outcomes through invoking divine action, while yet others think that the difference God makes is not best accounted for by 'interventionism'. There are as many views of prayer as there are people praying.

So when we pray for someone  - what are our expectations?  When people say ‘their prayers have been answered’ - what has happened? Is there any scientific evidence that 'prayer works' in some directly functional sense?   Is something that can be 'measured' going on, and in what sense is God involved?

Today, Jenny Williams and Anne Douglas of the Christian Fellowship of Healing discussed research into prayer, including projects they are currently running, in conversation with Jim Pym of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers (whose publication What Kind of God, What Kind of Healing? is now available).

The Christian Fellowship of Healing (Scotland) is an interdenominational organisation, "bound together by our commitment to offer a ministry of listening and healing prayer." It declares: "We are ordinary people and we believe that it is ordinary people Christ calls to be his instruments. We welcome people from all faiths or none to join us in our regular programme."

Q&A with Bishop Christopher Senjonyo

THIS evening at 17:45 there is a showing of the powerful 'Getting Out', followed by Q&A with Bishop Christopher Senjonyo from Uganda, a courageous supporter of the rights and dignity of LGBT people, at the Filmhouse Cinema in Edinburgh.

The presentation is taking place under the banner of the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace. Bishop Christopher is also speaking tomorrow, Saturday 13 August, from 12.30pm at St John's Church, in a conversation entitled 'The worst place in the world to be gay?'


These are both 'must see' events. Full film details and booking information here.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A squaddie's eye on war

IN the dark days following 9/11, Steven McLaughlin (author of Squaddie: A Soldier's Story) felt compelled to serve in the army.

From the harsh realities of basic training to post-war chaos in Iraq and knife-edge tension in Northern Ireland, he found himself submerged in a world of casual violence.

At the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace (12.30pm – 1.30pm at St John’s Church, 12 August) he discusses an ordinary soldier’s daily fears and joys.

A former bouncer for some of Blackpool’s most violent nightclubs, Steven also holds a black belt in Shotokan Karate and is an expert-level Master Scuba Diver. He has also been awarded an associate diploma in acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and is a member of Equity and the Society of Authors.

He has also travelled widely in North Americ and Eastern Europe, and speaks Polish.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A voice alongside the voiceless

IN THIS video, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo speaks about his ministry with LGBT Ugandans, for the film Voices of Witness Africa (http://voicesofwitness.org).


Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo from Claiming the Blessing on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Sowing and reaping after 9/11

SAMUEL Huntingdon postulated in 1992 that we were facing a 'clash of civilizations' between 'the West' and Islam. 

Many contested that analysis but than worried that with 9/11 and the 'War on Terror' the prophecy was coming true. But with the killing of Osama Bin Laden the democratic Arab revolutions, can we now be more hopeful about the future? Here Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, journalist and author, is in conversation with David Pratt, foreign editor of the Sunday Herald.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Message from the First Minister

SCOTLAND'S First Minister, Alex Salmond, has sent a person message of endorsement and support for the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which runs through to 29 August.

He writes: "The Festival of Spirituality and Peace is now firmly established as one of the key Edinburgh International Festivals and I am delighted to see it go from strength to strength with each successive year. Edinburgh's International Festivals don't just allow us to enjoy arts and entertainment from home and abroad, they allow us opportunities to think about our lives and the world we live in.

"This year's theme of Faith, Hope and Reality is a perfect example of thought-provoking and challenging issues discussed in ways which educate, inspire and entertain, and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone attending the events throughout the coming three weeks will be both educated and challenged by what they see and hear.

"Building a better society is not just the work of politicians, faith leaders and community activists. Real change is driven by all people who are ready to challenge injustice, prejudice and discrimination. I know that this year's festival will be exciting and enjoyable for participants and audience alike, and I pass on my best wishes to all.

Islam is not monolithic, says Alibhai Brown

THE idea that Islam is monolithic, violent and universally opposed to democratic values is a simplistic but persuasive notion that suits hardliners, including al-Qaeda sympthisers and the neo-conservative right, says journalist and author Yasmin Alibhai Brown.

Ms Alibhai Brown was in conversation with David Pratt, foreign editor of the Sunday Herald newspaper, at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace this morning.

Rehearsing the contours of a complex and variegated history of Islam over the centuries, Ms Alibhai Brown said that the contribution of Muslims to modern society was often overlooked. For example, many top IVF doctors in Britain are Arabs, she pointed out.

Full report here.

Lockerbie and 9/11 feature at Festival

ONE of the hottest issues the Scottish Government has faced, the Lockerbie and Megrahi saga, will be aired at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace today (Monday 8 August).

Dr Jim Swire, spokesperson for the relatives of the Lockerbie victims, along with Professor Richard Black QC and all the members of the Justice for Megrahi Committee, will attend a public question and answer session following the only summer performance of David Benson's acclaimed and controversial play, 'Lockerbie: Unfinished Business' at St John's Church, Princes Street, from 4pm.

Meanwhile, at 10.30am, also at St John's, journalist and author Yasmin Alibhai Brown discusses the post 9/11 world, the democratic Arab revolutions, and Samuel Huntingdon's 'clash of civilisations' thesis, along with David Pratt, foreign editor of the Sunday Herald newspaper.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Peace requires tough listening

IN certain circles there are several topics often considered beyond the bounds of 'polite' conversation: namely religion, politics, sex and money.

But if these four are not "regular features" of our global conversation about peace, justice and spirituality, "the world will spin on some very strange axes," the Bishop of Edinburgh has suggested.

Bishop Brian Smith was speaking to a packed opening event and service for the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace (FoSP) at St John's Church in the heart of Scotland's capital.

Quoting Emeritus Professor Peter Jones, giving a special lecture to mark the tercentenary of David Hume - Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist - Bishop Smith approved the definition of conversation as "a sacred and improvisatory practice in which the duty to listen precedes the right to speak."

Full story here.

Gene Sharp and the Arab revolutions

A VISUAL presentation of the work of nonviolence pioneer Gene Sharp featured prominently in the opening event of the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace, held at St John's Church in the heart of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh.

Gene Sharp, the man now credited with having a significant role in the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government and the spread of largely peaceful, democratic revolutions across the Arab world, is perhaps the foremost contemporary expert on non-violent revolution. Today, his work has been translated into more than 30 languages.  His books have often slipped across borders and have escaped the eyes secret police all over the globe.

As Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine also fell to the rainbow revolutions sweeping across Eastern Europe, each of the democratic movements involved paid tribute to Sharp's influence. Yet his work has remained largely unknown to the public, he has been harassed by the CIA as a subversive, and he has lived in modesty if not poverty.

Gene Sharp's most famous book is From Dictatorship to Democracy. The Albert Einstein Institution, which he haeds, is based in the ground floor of his home and guided by executive director Jamila Raqib

The NGO is a nonprofit organization advancing the study and use of strategic nonviolent action in conflicts throughout the world.

Walking in the light of peace

THE opening event and service for the 2011 Festival of Peace and Spirituality has begun this evening with some stirring choral music from South Africa and other parts of the world - reflecting the truly international flavour of the 6-29 August events it hosts.

Siyahamba is a South African hymn that became popular in churches across the globe in the wake of the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s. The title means "We Are Marching" or "We are Walking" in the Zulu language, and the key words are "We are marching in the light of God."

The chair of the Festival, the Very Rev Dr John Armes pointed out that as well as reaching the eleventh year of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, this year's programme anticipates the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Standing alongside the victims of violence and inhumanity, people of all faiths and none are being encouragedto seek alternatives to a world of conflict and injustice, he said.

Among the special guests present were the Japanese and Norwegian consuls - whose countries have witnessed disaster and horror recently. A book of condolences for the families and friends of the victims of the Norway shootings is available for signing at St John's Church.

Re-awakening the spirit of peace

THE Edinburgh-based Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which along with the famous 'fringe' and International festivals, brings tens of thousands of people to Scotland's capital and attracts the interest of millions, seeks to be an occasion of celebration and understanding for people from all faith backgrounds and none.

Moreover, the whole Edinburgh's festival season is not just a 'commercial jamboree', but an an opportunity to recapture the vision of peace in the human community, amidst a world of conflict.

That was the message of the director of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, the Rev Donald Reid, speaking on the BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' this morning (7 August 2011).

He recalled with presenter Roger Boulton that the Edinburgh International Festival was conceived in 1947, after the devastation of the second world war.

Its aim back then was to "provide a platform for the flowering of the hman spirit" - and the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which will attract some 25,000 people to 300 performances over 200 events in six venues between 6-29 August, seeks to "reawaken the heart of the festival for people who, after 9/11, want to work together for a peaceful future," says Mr Reid.


More here.

Opening event

YOUR personal invitation to the Festival of Spirituality and Peace opening event on Sunday 7 August 2011...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Radio 4 Sunday programme

THE Rev Donald Reid, director of the ambitious Festival of (6-29 August 2011) in Edinburgh this year is being interviewed on BBC Radio 4's flagship 'Sunday' programme tomorrow morning, not long after 7am, on 7 August.

The programme, presented by Ed Stourton (pictured),  can be heard for a week afterwards through the BBC 'listen again' iPlayer facility.

The Festival is launched officially on Sunday evening at St John's (at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Street, fringe venue 127) with an hour-long event at 6pm featuring a range of performers and guests, including Bishop Brian Smith and actor David Benson - along with musicians, the world's premier Tiko drummer, Art Lee, and more.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Peace possibilities after 9/11

WITH the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks less than a month away, the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh is seeking to reawaken a spirit of hope for people of different belief and cultural backgrounds who want to work for a peaceful future.

Among the speakers throughout August 2011 will be Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has been at the centre of a storm of publicity around the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’.

There are also events looking at change in the Middle East, non-violent responses to conflict, religion and violence, Lockerbie (with the entire Justice for Megrahi campaign committee present), faith and sexuality, and lessons from Bloody Sunday.

With the theme ‘Faith, Hope and Reality’, the Festival of Spirituality and Peace enters its own 11th year – and between 6 and 29 August 2011 will feature 300 performances across 200 events in six venues, attracting around 20,000 people.

More here

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Drumming out the message

AMONG the many highlights of the Festival of Spirituality & Peace preview last night (3 August) was a short performance by Taiko teacher and performer Art Lee. Here's a snippet...

video

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Help tell the story of the Festival

WHAT'S a blog for, some people still ask? The answer's simple: a weblog (to give it it's formal title) is an online diary... a day-to-day, moment-to-moment account of what's happening.

The idea behind Spirituality & Peace News, therefore, is to provide the daily, ongoing story of Edinburgh's most exciting and diverse August extravaganza, the Festival of Spirituality & Peace, running from 6 August (yes, just a few days away!) right through to August 29th.

To make this personal and up-close, this is something YOU can help with. If you want to send us a quick reaction to an event or talk you have attended, or perhaps a photo, or a quotation (something you heard), or even a lengthier report, we'd be delighted to run these - or excerpts, depending on space - as guest posts on this blog.

We are particularly keen to get people with mobile phones snapping away, or taking 30-60 second video shots for use on YouTube, if you have the facility. Please send all offerings to me here.

We do hope you can get involved in making this a continuous record... and as diverse as the Festival itself.

Tonight's preview event

TONIGHT at 5.30pm there will be an exclusive preview of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace 2011 for people in the media and good friends - before the whole extravaganza kicks off at the weekend.

This is a chance for those who are helping with publicity to get a taste of the Festival before it begins. With performances and introductions from many of our main contributors, it's the best way to sneak a peak at what will be going on in the next three weeks!

Appearing will be Coreen Scott, Gail Bryden who runs the Laughter Yoga, and Art Lee, the Taiko Drumming master.

Not only is this a first look at FoSP but it's also a chance to explore the sumptuous Persian Tent (illustrated). Its beautifully decorated and is a guaranteed passport to the delights of the region. The invitations have gone out, and we'll look forward to seeing some of you this evening - and many, many more over the coming three weeks!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

An exciting and diverse Festival

THIS year the Festival of Spirituality and Peace will feature some 300 activities in 200 events across 15 venues between 6 - 29 August 2011. 

There will be top-quality speakers, conversations, performances, film, food, exhibitions, family activities, workshops, art, culture and more.

The Festival is now in its eleventh year. Here are the full details...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Festival opening event on 7 August

OVER the course of three weeks the Festival of Spirituality and Peace will look at human reality – including controversial and difficult issues - from a variety of cultural perspectives, seeking convergent wisdom and signs of hope.

You can join us in our celebratory opening event on Sunday 7 August 2011, with various upcoming Festival performers and special guests including Bishop Brian Smith, actor David Benson, world no1 Taiko drummer Art Lee, singer Coreen Scott, poet Tessa Ransford, musician Mio Shapley, and the Loud and Proud Choir.

There will also be a message of strong support for the Festival and its aims from Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond.

Participants will be invited to tie a 'ribbon for peace' onto the railings of St John's Church, the venue. The address is: Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 4BJ. The events runs from 6-7pm, and will be followed by refreshments (until 9pm) with a number of artists and contributors present. All are welcome!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Nomadic tent in the heart of the city

A spectacular Persian Nomadic Tent will be a centrepiece of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh this month, flagging up the most ambitious programme in the Festival’s 11-year history.

There will be a preview of the Tent during a special media evening of entertainment on Wednesday 3 August, featuring highlights from Festival’s schedule of over 300 diverse events. Persian food and refreshments will be provided to showcase what it can offer to the public.

The Festival of Spirituality and Peace provides a mould-breaking alternative during Edinburgh’s hectic August programme. Seeking to ‘put the heart back into the festival season’, it brings East and West together to discover and celebrate both similarities and differences.

The preview will highlight what the Festival is describing as "a unique ethical ethos, international volunteer spirit, wide-ranging catalogue of events, and top-level performers." More here.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The anticipation builds

THIS year the Festival of Spirituality and Peace will be bigger than ever! From small beginnings in 2005, FoSP has grown to one of the highlights of the (ever-busy) Edinburgh festival calendar.

It will feature some 300 activities in 200 events across 15 venues between 6 - 29 August. There will be top-quality speakers, conversations, performances, film, food, exhibitions, family activities, workshops, art, culture and much more. The Festival is now in its eleventh year. Here are the full details...including a conveniently downloadable brochure (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat format).

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Come to the Festival, help people in need

THROUGHOUT August, the Festival of Spirituality & Peace will be supporting the Blood Foundation in Thailand, the St Paul's Centre in Uganda.

This is how it works: a variety of surcharges and donations will contribute directly to these fine causes, and our own Volunteer Programme. It's as simple as that.

So come to as many events as you can and if you can only come to one or two events then buy a ticket for a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Every ticket you purchase also helps a person in great need.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Looking back to look forward

ACCORDING to one old saying, "There's no point in looking back. You have to look forward." But that assumes that what we build tomorrow will be unrelated to what we attempted before - and that's not true.

It depends how you look back, really. Wallowing in nostalgia may not help with the challenges of today. But a sense of history, of gratitude, of inspiration carried forward, of lessons learned, of friendships made, of wisdom stored, of possibilities nurtured, of gifts harvested, of decisions made and re-made? Those are surely forward-thinking positives.

There's an old Aboriginal tradition which says that you need to "back into the future", because while no-one can quite know what will happen next, you can gain a good sense of direction by looking at what has been shaping the journey so far.

Anyway, that's our excuse for a quick revisiting of the riches of the Festival of Spirituality & Peace in 2010, 2009 and 2008. Hopefully these will give a good flavour of what's in store for 2011: 'Faith, Hope and Reality'.

Monday, 18 July 2011

A Festival first look

THROUGHOUT the course of of Festival of Spirituality & Peace we intend to make short video clips, as well as photos, available.

Here's a little visual taster...


FoSP '11 First Look from The Festival of Spirituality and on Vimeo.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Faith, hope and reality

THE theme for the 2011 Festival of Spirituality & Peace is Faith, Hope and Reality.

In an often troubled world, how do we build up real trust (which is what the word 'faith' betokens)? Where are our sources and foundations of hope as people and communities? And how do we face the harsher realities of the world without being dragged down into despair? 

One answer is that can we learn together by responding positively to the spirit of change embodied in the 'Arab Spring' - and in many other movements for cultural renewal, social justice, bridge-building and peacemaking across the world.

This year's Festival - which runs from 6 - 29 August - will offer many glimpses of a 'new world coming': through a range of conversations with change-makers and opinion formers; in performance, art and music; and in events designed to bring children and families together across cultures.  There will also be special events, film, and talks and workshops.

We look forward to meeting you there...

Make a difference - volunteer

YOU can be a part of one of Edinburgh’s most exciting and dynamic Festivals, and help to make 2011 a year to remember.

Every year the Festival of Spirituality & Peace welcomes around thirty volunteers from a wide variety of faiths, cultures and backgrounds.

As a grassroots organisation, we are deeply committed to our volunteers and in 2010 we were awarded Investing in Volunteers status by Volunteer Development Scotland.

Join us for three weeks of excitement, dialogue and discovery. Be a part of one of Edinburgh’s fastest growing and most diverse festivals. And remember, all events are FREE for our volunteers.

If you want to get involved in this year’s Festival of Spirituality & Peace as a volunteer please visit the volunteering section of our website for more information. Or you can email Festival Coordinator Katherine Newbigging.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Scotland is positive

THOUGH the Festival of Spirituality & Peace kicks off fully on 6 August, one 'conversations' event has already taken place - a powerful and moving opportunity to hear and meet Canon Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican priest from Uganda who has been openly speaking about living with HIV since 1992.

The African church leader has also been a long-standing, brave and outspoken critic of attempts to introduce a controversial anti-homosexuality law in his home country.

In 1992, Gideon became the first African religious leader openly to declare his HIV-positive status. He has since devoted his life to an AIDS ministry. This has taken him to over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the world.

Hosted by David Johnson, director of Waverley Care, Scotland is positive was an opportunity to hear how personal experience can stand up to attitudes that stigmatise and discriminate against people living with HIV in Scotland and across the world. It was also a challenge to policy makers within the political arena.

Gideon Byamugisha is driven by a passion for the dignity and rights of all people, especially those marginalised, stigmatised and discriminated against because of their HIV-positive status. He has played leading roles in the Church of Uganda's AIDS programme, the Uganda AIDS Commission, World Vision International, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, special conferences of the United Nations, ICMDA HIV initiative, and in founding the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or Affected by HIV and AIDS. There is now also an equivalent international network.

Twitter, Facebook and social networking

YOU can follow the Festival of Spirituality & Peace 2011 on Twitter and also on Facebook, as well as on this blog and at the home page. There's also a YouTube channel from last year, so that you can get a flavour of what's in store.

New to online social networking?  There's a brief introduction here. Technologically it may also seem bright, shiny and new. But it's actually something human beings have been involved in for a long time...

"What you think upon grows. Whatever you allow to occupy your mind you magnify in your life. Whether the subject of your thought be good or bad, the law works and the condition grows. Any subject that you keep out of your mind tends to diminish in your life, because what you do not use atrophies." - Emmet Fox, Make Your Life Worthwhile, 1942.

Spirituality and peace after 9/11

THE Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which runs this year in Edinburgh from 6 - 29 August 2011, seeks to reawaken the heart for people who, ten years after 9/11, want to work together for a peaceful future. 

In this short preview, the Festival's director, Donald Reid, introduces its main theme. Read the full article here.

Welcome...

THIS site is under development and is in the process of being launched. It will be providing news, updates, features and links related to this year's exciting Festival.

In the meantime, the full programme for the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality of Peace can be viewed and loaded at our official website, which is at: http://www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk/  Also, tickets are on sale at the hub here.