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Delicious Peace: Interfaith Coffee and Music in Uganda

Richard Sobol | Uganda

Delicious Peace: Peace Kawomera Coffee Cooperative bringing together Muslim, Christians and Jews in Mbale, Uganda

A Delicious Peace

Imagine if the world never learned how to hate

Far from civilization, a truly civilized world exists.

Deep in the bush in Eastern Uganda, lives three peoples-- one Christian, one Muslim and the other Jewish – who have embraced one another not as enemies, but as brothers and sisters. For the past century, they have survived, struggled, and thrived together – most recently establishing and operating a cooperative venture to grow and sell fair trade coffee.

In a world that has seen centuries of bloodshed, intolerance and xenophobia between the three great Mosaic religions, this is the story of people who never learned how to hate. They live today not merely in tolerance, but in harmony, creating a unique community they call Mirembe Kawomera – “Delicious Peace”.

East Africa is an unlikely location for religious harmony. During the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in the 1970s, the religious and ethnic divisions of Uganda intensified, leaving over 400,000 dead and millions more traumatized. Since the warfare ended in 1986, Uganda has experienced a period of rebirth and relative peace. For the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish neighbors of Namonyoni, an enclave in Northeastern Uganda, these twenty years have been a time of productive, respectful relationships.

 In 2004, out of this religious tolerance, 558 farmers joined together to market and export their coffee, initiating an unprecedented cooperative business venture. Delicious Peace is the unique story of this fair trade coffee cooperative that benefits hundreds of Ugandan subsistence farmers and their families. This is a story of how bridging religious differences allows for productive cooperation in the struggle for economic justice. At a time when tensions between different religious communities – stemming from differing beliefs, from distinct perspectives, and from conflicts concerning land – contribute to increased levels of political violence and terrorism around the world, here is an inspirational story of hope. In this small area in the northeast corner of Uganda, a seemingly typical rural community, one whose people live hand to mouth with meager provisions, no running water, no steady supply of electricity and no industrial or employment base, is a place where Muslims, Christians and Jews live and work peacefully together. These farmers have opened up their homes and houses of worship to my camera, allowing me to  create a unique collection of images. From the seeds of death, suspicion and terror that were planted during Amin’s reign and civil wars, coffee fruit is now growing tall in this tiny patch of dirt in the heart of Africa, a symbol for the fruit that can blossom out of religious tolerance.



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