99 words for peace celebration

Photos: Miriam Wandless

It was standing room only at the Mosaic Rooms on 20th September

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for a celebration of the book 99 words to mark Peace Day and to raise funds for Peace Direct.


Liz Gray opened the evening with the news that nearly 2000 copies have been sold.

Liz Gray

She was assisted by actors Stéphane Cornicard and Joan Walker whose voices punctuated the

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evening with excerpts from the book.

Stéphane Cornicard and Joan Walker

Liz read an early e-mail request for 99 words which she sent out in July 2004. Host Scilla Elworthy responded with the piece she sent back.

If I look back I see
that fear lies to me.

‘You’ll fail,’ it said to me when I started out on the path.
‘Here’s how,’ painting detailed pictures of pain.
When I was on the way fear scared me again and again
‘Too weak, too old, turn back.’

I did walk on, encumbered by this load.
It wasn’t easy,
but it wasn’t what I’d been told.

I didn’t fail.
Without the load I might have stumbled less.

The trick is to hear
when it is fear speaking
and hear it fast enough to let it drop.

Scilla Elworthy

Co-founder of Peace Direct, she emphasised how this British charity works hand in hand with local initiatives in its support for peacebuilding in war zones worldwide. As she introduced the evening’s speakers, she highlighted the themes they had chosen for their 99 words – each one an important component of peace.

The Turkish novelist and journalist Elif Shafak described how she first became aware of the power of words as a child in Istanbul, growing up under the eyes of her

Months due… Looks most www.geneticfairness.org just ingredients make the in make, Using.

traditional Turkish grandmother and her “modern” cosmopolitan, divorced mother. She remembers still the sound words make when books are burned – which she heard during a military coup.

Raised by a single mother I spent my childhood
discovering my imagination. Solitude was
incessant but I was never alone. I had over 20

I played with the letters of the alphabet the way
most girls play with dolls. I assigned a colour to
each. ‘E’ was yellow, ‘r’ brown, ‘a’ azure. They Spielen Sie heute noch im Spin Palace, um reiche Pramien zu erhalten! 24/7 live support Klicka Har 020-79-8161 (Sverige) Gary kunde inte tro sina ogon nar han pa bara nagra sekunder vann 3,7 miljoner pund nar han spelade Mega Moolah i vart mobil casino . talked,
danced, quarrelled.

I never tired of this game. Changing meanings
by shuffling letters is pure magic. Words shimmy,
laugh. When they are censured they bleed. I nurse
them, the way I would my own flesh. For I know,
deep inside, that words are alive.

Elif Shafak

Fergal Keane vividly recalled unexpected degrees of kindness he has witnessed as a BBC Foreign Correspondent working in areas of conflict. Reporting from Rwanda, he encountered a young girl who had been badly wounded in a machete attack. Years later he decided to return and try and find out what had happened to her. He discovered a young woman, despite her injury, training to become a nurse.

Above all try to be kind. I have no doubt kindness
is the greatest virtue. You can find a million
reasons in any one day to dislike people, to feel
resentment or even loathing. But to be kind is to
protect yourself from the worst parts of your own
nature. You may fear that to face people with an
open heart leaves you vulnerable, open to abuse.
I rather doubt it. The way of the hard face is much
harder. Be kind to others, especially the more
difficult people you encounter, and that kindness
will come back to you.

Fergal Keane

Inua Ellams, the Nigerian performance poet, wanted to take a different perspective on life and underlined how each person has a unique vantage point. His poems “Fragments of Bone” and “Kieran” were powerful portrayals of the consequences of intolerance and prejudice.

Our senses vary. For instance, my ears might
not be attuned as yours, and your eyes might
take more light. The contrasts may be slight,
but imagine each of your senses differed from
mine and we could ‘feel’ divergently about an
identical experience. Consider now seven billion
people, their combination of senses unique,
each ‘feeling’ our planet differently, and you’ll
find there as many worlds as there are people.
Try to heed the views of others, you might have
missed a thing or two, and if given the chance,
share your world, no one sees it as you do.

Innua Ellams

Helen Bamber, now in her ninth decade, spoke movingly of her continuing work with victims of torture and conflict – motivated by love. By “working outside the box”, she described how therapists at the Helen Bamber Foundation can find creative ways to reach people isolated by memories of trauma.

People often ask me why I have spent most of
my life concerned with the consequences of
conflict and violence. The simple answer is, why not?

The honest answer is difficult. It is about the
suffering of refugees. It is about the short life
of compassion, how quickly it is born and how
quickly it dies. It is about the stranger to whom
we owe nothing. It is how our society will be
judged and how we discover our humanity.
It is finding our reward through the eyes of
those to whom we owe nothing. It is about love.

Helen Bamber

The evening concluded with more 99 words from members of the audience.
Your words

Your Words

Thank you to the Mosaic Rooms for hosting a wonderful evening – and thank you

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to everyone who helped us raise nearly £900.

Please visit the Mosaic Rooms

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facebook page for more photographs of the evening.

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