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"Unique Partnership for Peace signed by Oldham Forum & Holy Land Village"

Tuesday 17 October 2017

by Richard Outram, Secretary of the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum

October 6 at 5:08pm: At a ground-breaking ceremony held yesterday (5 October) in the Council Chamber at Oldham Council, a unique partnership for peace was signed by representatives from a village working for peace in Israel, Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam; a British group supporting their work, the Oasis of Peace UK; and the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum.

Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam was founded in 1970 mid-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The name derives from the Biblical Book of Isaiah and means Oasis of Peace in both Hebrew and Arabic. It is the only community in the region where Jewish and Palestinian families, both Muslim and Christian, have chosen to live together and to work towards peace and equality through education.

Before the event our guests were shown the Oldham Peace Garden by Maria Ellis, Vice Chair of the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum, and Richard Outram, Secretary.

The event itself was hosted by the Worshipful Mayor of Oldham, Cllr Shadab Qumer, accompanied by the Mayoress.

The audience was first addressed by Benita Hide, Executive Director, Oasis of Peace; Dr Nava Sonnenschein, Director of the School of Peace in Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam; Cllr Derek Heffernan, Chair of the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum and Oldham Council Champion of Peace; and Richard Outram, Secretary of the Forum, before the agreement was signed by the parties.

In another first for Oldham, Dr. Nava Sonnenschein then signed the Pledge to Peace, the 50th organisation to do so in Oldham, before two presentations of gifts were made to our guests.

The Mayor of Oldham presented Dr. Sonnenschein with a personal letter of friendship to take back to the village council and a plaque bearing the coat-of-arms of the borough for display in the village hall.

Maria Ellis, Vice Chair of the Forum and founder of Peace Talks Oldham, then presented our guests with copies of two books about the life and talks of the Ambassador of the Pledge to Peace, Mr. Prem Rawat, for personal reading and to add to the collection at the Peace Library in Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam.

Commenting, event organiser Richard Outram, said: “Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam may be a small village in the Holy Land, but it represents a huge example for peace in the world.”

“As the only community where Jewish and Palestinian families have made a conscious decision to live and work together for peace, Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam is a beacon of hope in a region fractured by war, hate, social unrest and gross injustice.”

“I believe that this is the first agreement of its kind between the village and any international partner so we are truly honoured that Oldham has been given this opportunity to work across continents for peace with such a unique and inspiring community as Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam.”

The agreement that has been signed includes proposals to develop links between the twenty five Oldham schools and colleges that have signed the Pledge to Peace and schools in the village; to apply the lessons learned through the work of Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam to help promote community cohesion and understanding in the Borough; and to organise a study tour to the village.

The Forum will also look to help support the work of Oasis of Peace UK by establishing a sub-group of friends for this purpose, the first in the UK north of Oxford.

Richard added: “The Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum is extremely grateful to the Mayor and Mayoress of Oldham for their support for this visit and to Nava and Benita for taking the time to come to visit us in order to sign this agreement. We very much look forward to working with them and the people of Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam in the future.”

“Three things that were particularly exciting to me were the prospect of establishing an Oldham sub-group to support the work of Oasis of Peace UK; using the teachers’ resource pack developed by Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam in our peace schools; and organising a study tour for people from Oldham to the village next year.”

“The Mayor has already booked his place"

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