A Grade 10 pupil from Star College Bridgetown, who won a social-cohesion competition, got to put his winning entry into practice by inviting people from different backgrounds to break bread together.
In Tabish Mukhtar’s winning entry, he described how sharing a meal with people from different cultures, religions, or backgrounds, can open up dialogue to create an environment where unity and harmony can be fostered.
The competition, which was open to high school pupils, was run by a non-profit organisation,Turquoise Harmony Institute, and funded by the national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
On Saturday September 30, Tabish and some fellow classmates hosted 70 people at Star College for a lunch of Cape Malay cuisine.
Speaking at the event, he said: “It is so surreal to see all of you before me today because a few months ago, this event was nothing more than ink on paper. Through countless hours of work by my mentors and I, we bring this message of social cohesion to the community. Today, we will celebrate our differences and enjoy some food chosen from the Cape Malay cuisine.
“Social cohesion is the glue that brings us together and provides messages of tolerance, brotherhood and mutual understanding which is key in a dividing world. Simply put, social cohesion means meeting those different from us without losing ourselves to superficial differences.
“Your presence here today helps to further social cohesion in our communities. Even small experiences can change the hearts of people through interactions with others. So, think about how you can implement social cohesion in your daily life — even if it’s a small action. Think simple, maybe help your neighbour, or make a dish for your co-worker.”
Turquoise Harmony Institute’s regional director, Dr Aydin Inal, said his organisation was thrilled to have the youth involved in such a project.
“We want to create more opportunities like this where people get to enjoy each other’s company and not feel threatened. Hopefully we can take this to our communities and institutions and host similar events to spread the message of social cohesion,” Dr Inal said.
Sheikh Fahiem Isaacs said District Six was a good example of how diverse people had lived in harmony with one another.
“In District Six, where I grew up, we had great respect for each other. It is unfortunate that we drifted so far away from one another. We have a duty and responsibility toward one another, and we need more dialogue like this. We need to bring back the way of life like the generations before us taught us. Life is sacred and we need to respect all cultures and religions,” Sheikh Isaacs said.
Asheeqah van Eden, from Bulwalk Ministries in Heideveld, said: “Where there is unity, God commands a blessing.”
She added: “Unity starts at home and in your community. We can always learn from each other.”
Nhlanhla Nkobi from the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, said he was inspired by the experience.
“Faith-based organisations are very important when it comes to social cohesion in our communities. Tabish’s brilliant project seeks to bring diverse communities together and use food to create dialogue. The voice of young people is important in our country and I would like to congratulate Tabish on this amazing project,” Mr Nkobi said.