Five years ago, I joined with Rick Love and Michael Ly to launch Peace Catalyst International, hoping to contribute to the flourishing of the global neighborhood by building friendships between Christians and Muslims. We wanted to focus more on common grace and common good rather than acting as if we had a common theology. We started out by connecting with a number of local and global leaders, people who spend a lot of time thinking about the weighty issues of Christian-Muslim relations, peace, and convicted civility.
However, I wanted to make sure that we were also connecting with the common person — the one who won’t be convinced by an academic article, but needs to meet a real person, and ask real questions. We needed an initiative that could be a front door for relationships and could be reproduced and led by anyone who can make room on their plate for hummus, and room in their heart for “the other.” That’s how the idea for the Peace Feast was born, at least the organized version of it.
We all eat. Therefore, the idea of a Peace Feast is accessible to almost anyone who wants to start one in their area. Simply put, a Peace Feast is a cash mob to promote international restaurants, and to appreciate the culinary traditions of our global neighbors. If you want to launch a Peace Feast in your area, you just need to do three things:
1) Meet the owners of an international restaurant in your area.
2) Plan a big feast with all of your friends during the slow hours of the restaurant.
3) Show up. Eat. Listen to the owner tell the story of their life and restaurant.
Over the years, I have been profoundly shaped by Steven Garber and The Washington Institute. As a matter of fact, I have a standing offer to buy the Andouille Crepe from the Crepe Bar in Tempe, Arizona for anyone who reads Visions of Vocation. One aspect of the book that I think about often is when Steve talks about how “moral commitment precedes epistemological insight” and how we “see out of our hearts.” As hearts have been softened through Peace Feasts, we’ve realized that there’s a deep connection between the tastebuds and the heart.
That’s why I wrote this article for the Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue Journal:
It was the spring of 2002 and I noticed that many of my favorite restaurants, especially those serving world cuisine from places like Somalia, Turkey, and Afghanistan were slowly going out of business. I didn’t know why these restaurants were struggling financially, especially since we in the Phoenix area, are a hidden gem of international diversity with large numbers of refugees, international students, and expatriate workers. Maybe it was the economy, but I had a hunch that the general suspicion toward Muslims in the wake of 9/11 was negatively affecting these restaurants.
I wanted them to stay open, partly for the sake of my taste buds, and partly because I saw these restaurants as embassies of culture to the common person. In my experience, most people can’t fly 20+ hours on an airplane and spend thousands of dollars to travel the world, but many people can afford to drive 20 minutes and spend $20 to taste world cuisine. A restaurant might be the only tangible way many Americans will experience some aspect of Saudi Arabian, Persian, or Iraqi culture. I began to reflect on the connection between the taste buds and the heart, wondering if ethnocentric hearts could be melted by the taste of butter chicken and a short conversation with the chef. That’s when I gathered with a group of friends, and we came up with the idea for the Peace Feast…
Jim Mullins is pastor of teaching, communities, and cultural engagement at Redemption Church in Tempe, Arizona. He is also the co-founder of Peace Catalyst International and International Guild of Visual Peacemakers. He and his wife, Jenny, live with their daughter, Elliana, in Tempe.
Photo: Denise Hunter