By: Sonja Miley and George Mullens
On Sunday, April 15th 2018, Sudanese, Rwandans, and other survivors of genocide and mass violence gathered at White City Tiger Turf for London Play2Remember, our annual five-a-side 'Survivor' football tournament to commemorate the dead and honour the living.
For the third year in a row Waging Peace, along with Eric Murangwa of Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU) brought individuals and groups together in an event that inspired and left teams and spectators feeling part of something uniquely special and powerfully moving.
April 2018 is a crucially important month for both Sudanese and Rwandan communities as April marks fifteen years since the start of the genocide in Darfur and the twenty-fourth anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
In the spirit of standing alongside survivors, this year we extended an invitation to the West London community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy to join us with a Grenfell team and community supporters. Many of the people living in Grenfell were refugees themselves having fled war torn countries and sought sanctuary in the UK.
We hoped our outreach would be received as it was intended: an appropriate tribute to the Grenfell community since White City Tiger Turf, our venue for the event is located as the crow flies in direct line to the tower block which has become a haunting memorial for this community.
To our delight, Grenfell: FC was formed especially for LP2R 2018 and consisted of survivors and bereaved family members of those affected by the tragedy. As stated by Maddy Crowther, co-Director of Waging Peace, "Many of the people living in Grenfell were refugees themselves, having fled war-torn countries. Survivors of genocide, state violence and disaster know what it is like to see their world destroyed. To lose loved ones, photographs of loved ones, treasured memories and a whole way of life".
FHPU founder, Eric Murangwa MBE commented: "Football to me is a symbol of life. My passion for the beautiful game started when I was a little boy following my father to watch his beloved club Rayon Sports. That club later took me on as a professional football player. My teammates saved my life during the genocide and their bravery, alongside my love of football, gave me my life's purpose. Sport has tremendous power to unite where there are divisions, to heal where there are wounds".
Team Sudan, led by Karim Suleiman, a former professional footballer in Sudan and Sudanese refugees and survivors who are friends of Waging Peace. They debuted kit donated by The Nicklas Foundation promoting organ donation.
Team BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees), a group of staff and volunteers who challenge immigration detention in the UK through legal advice, representation and policy advocacy.
Diversity United, a team that brings colleagues from the European Medicines Agency to play against various sister-organisations.
Team Duncan Lewis, a team of solicitors who are back for London Play2Remember for the third year.
Young Humanitarians, a team of recent international university graduates who work in different industries but aim to raise awareness on global issues.
Remembering Srebrenica, a group of friends from London who are representing Remembering Srebrenica, a British charity that aims to bring communities together to remember Srebrenica by organising commemorative events and educational programmes.
Team Rwanda UK, a team organised by Eric Murangwa and aims to use football to encourage teamwork, develop conflict resolution skills and to fight prejudice, intolerance and hatred.
Soccer My Saviour, a team organised by documentary filmmakers which follow Eric Murangwa's journey from surviving the Rwandan genocide to his role of using football as a method to promote peace.
Team UNA-UK, a team organised by UNA-UK, a charity that works for peace, development and human rights through improved international cooperation.
Wilsons FC, a club founded by a mixture of immigration lawyers from Wilson Solicitors LLP, interpreters and others from the local Tottenham Community.
Team Yavneh, a team of year 13 students with an interest in genocide prevention and awareness.
Led by Sonja Miley, co-Director of Waging Peace, the tournament started with a powerful one minute of silence with 120 hundred people in a circle. In the circle, with very little invitation players and spectators, community members and friends, children and volunteers held hands in silence to commemorate those who were no longer with us. Followed by introductions and welcome speeches by Sonja Miley and Maddy Crowther and statements from Eric Murangwa and Emma Dent Coad MP.
"We need more people like you in Parliament" said Emma Dent Coad MP.
After the commemorations for those that lost their lives, the mood shifted away from solemnity to one of comradery, togetherness and fun as teams started to play some high intensity and exciting football! The highest score for the tournament for a single game was the 5-1 of Young Humanitarians vs BID. In first place, Team Sudan won the tournament on penalties. In second place, the Young Humanitarians and in third place Wilsons: FC.
Women from the Sudanese Women's Group in London supported by Waging Peace were out in full support with a bake sale fundraiser and joined in the shouts of celebration as Team Sudan took home the first place trophy.
The survivors of disasters, state violence and genocide know what it is like to lose their loved ones. It is the hope of Waging Peace and FHPU that people can learn more about power, inspiration, unity and hope in dark times.
If you've been inspired by our work, please consider donating here. We need your support to continue what we do!
For media coverage on the day, please check out the following links:
• London Live: www.londonlive.co.uk/news/2018-04-15/grenfell-tower
• ITV News: www.facebook.com/WagingPeaceUK/videos/1755672807879217/
• London Evening Standard - Friday, 13th April 2018
If you would like to make a donation to Waging Peace see: http://wagingpeace.info/donate/