Uganda has a history of ethnic and religious divisions that intensified during the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in the 1970s. Yet in the 1990s, the Abayudaya (Jewish people) of Uganda set out to build productive, respectful relationships with their Muslim and Christian neighbors. In Namonyoni sub-county, outside of the town of Mbale, Jewish, Muslim and Christian farmers have come together to form the Peace Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Fair Trade Coffee Cooperative. Coffee farmers are composing music in a variety of local styles to educate farmers to the benefits of Fair Trade, to encourage farmers to join the cooperative and to cooperate across religious boundaries. In these songs, they also teach the most effective methods to cultivate coffee and stress the importance of Fair Trade profits to educate their children. Ethnomusicologist Jeffrey A. Summit has recorded their music and examines the impact of their efforts on behalf of economic justice and interreligious cooperation.
On Sept. 11, 2001, J. J. Keki, a Jewish Ugandan coffee farmer and musician, was visiting New York City. He was walking up to the World Trade Center as the planes hit the towers. When he returned to Uganda, he felt compelled to bring different religions together in peace. He walked from village to village, asking his Jewish, Christian and Muslim neighbors if they would be willing to form a Fair Trade coffee cooperative. To date, more than 1,000 farmers have joined Peace Kawomera. J. J. says, “Use whatever you have to create peace. If you have a body, use your body to bring peace, not to cause chaos. If you have music, use your music to create peace. For us, we have coffee. We are using coffee to bring peace to the world.”