Friday, September 22, 2017

Peace Grows Like Coffee

A few weeks ago, we remembered the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I found myself thinking about how the world had changed because of that horrific event. In my mind, few changes are positive. This picture book tells of positive changes in an African village inspired by the events of 9/11. 
Picture Book: Growing Peace: A Story of Farming,                                               Music, and Religious Harmony
Author and Photojournalist: Richard Sobol
Summary: This story begins and ends in Africa in the village of Namanyonyi, near the border of Uganda and Kenya. 
Namanyonyi is unusual. In this small Ugandan village live Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They live in harmony, but they used to live more separately. Here you see children from each religion enjoying futbol. (The hats identify the boy in the middle as Jewish and the boy on the right as Muslim.
Since one villager's witnessing of 9/11, they live more cooperatively and productively. J. J. Keki, a musician and coffee grower, happened to be in New York City on his way to The World Trade Center on 9/11. 
He emerged from the subway station in time to see one of the planes hit a tower. His life, like so many others, would never be the same. 
He came home and realized his village offered a perfect opportunity to model interfaith cooperation. Most families have a garden for food but also grow coffee for export. (They prefer to drink tea.) 
Through contacts made in his village via his children's many friends, Mr. Keki met with village farmers of all 3 religions: Islam
Christianity 
and Judaism.
Together they created a farming cooperative so that they can import their coffee at a better price and highlight their cooperation despite their village's religious diversity.  On the sign below find the word "Kawomera." It means "delicious." The Delicious Peace Growers Coop was born and has transformed this community! 
A model of interfaith cooperation was been born thanks to one man's determination to counteract religious hatred! 
J. J. Keki has even written songs celebrating the extraordinary peace and joy that his village now experiences. 
Besides a detailed account of this story, you'll find the process of growing coffee beans. Children and adults are photographed demonstrating the steps: the harvesting of coffee cherries,  
the drying of their seeds, 
the shaking to remove skins, the bagging, and the transporting to a Kenyan sea port. 
Growing Peace offers a wide but pragmatic perspective on peacemaking, integrated with economic cooperation. 
Hard work is celebrated here as well as the joy of living in the diversity that God ordains through nature and humanity.
Hanna’s Comments: There is so much text in this book that I highly recommend reading it over a couple of sessions or telling (rather than reading) this powerful story while showing the photographs. Find in the back an Author's Note and lots of resources including a glossary which will help with pronunciation. The music behind this story is available [here] and you can purchase the fair trade Delicious Peace Coffee [here]
Check out other PBT books about Africans' responses to September 11, 2001 [here] and [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Lee & Low, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: this story is told in a feature-length video available at [Youtube]
Scripture Connections: Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. If they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9); Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called people of God. (Matthew 5:9); Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24); Strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of older children or adults and consider how scripture encourages cooperative community, even across religious traditions.