Today’s blog is by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland Managing Director, Gareth Harper. Gareth talks about PPI – NI’s Jingle Ball basketball tournament in relation to the ongoing efforts of the other PeacePlayers sites to commemorate the Christmas Truce, a time during World War I when British, French, and German soldiers stopped fighting, exchanged gifts, and played sports.
On 6 December 2014, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland hosted its annual Jingle Ball basketball tournament. This year, the event recognized the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce that took place on the Western Front on Christmas Day, 1914. The event was of several that PeacePlayers globally has been involved with to celebrate the courage of those first Peace Players who stepped into “No Man’s Land”, during a time of conflict, to show a different way.
The spirit of Christmas 1914 was on full display December 6, when 140 modern day Peace Players aged 9-14 years old from north, south, east and west Belfast came together to take over the entire bottom floor of Stranmillis College’s sports hall. The participants had been polishing their basketball skills for 12 weeks in the Beflast Interface League on their respective sides of the city. While playing on these integrated teams, they were able to not only develop practical basketball skills, but also take part in community relations discussions which allowed them to understand and learn about the communities and backgrounds their new friends were from. Their leaders, be it their coaches, parent, teachers or community leaders have been encouraging them into their no-man’s land to build sustainable relationships.
On 9 December 2014, PeacePlayers volunteers supported a commemorative screening of the French film “Joyeux Noel” from 2005, which the events of that Christmas Day 1914. The film depicts events through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. In addition, later this month, our PeacePlayers colleagues in Cyprus will be working with the British High Commission to commemorate the Christmas Truce; they are planning to recreate a football match within the Buffer Zone. An international team that will include United Nations soldiers, representatives from foreign missions and diplomats will compete against a bi-communal Cyprus team, which will include PeacePlayers International -Cyprus players. The event, weather permitting, is scheduled for the 22nd of December. The symbolism of these events poignantly and powerfully support us in reflecting upon the bravery and courage of those first Peace Players whose actions 100 years ago continue to inspire all that we strive for today – bringing together divided communities through sport.
So this Christmas let us keep in our thoughts and prayers the Peace Players on the Western Front 100 years ago and all those since, whom in many areas of conflict, have proved and continue to prove that through sport and other means, there is a different way and that friendship works.