Sharing food, hospitality and breaking down barriers

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

Lina Jebeile is a food stylist, professional photographer, and former secondary school teacher. An Australian born Muslim of Lebanese heritage, who grew up in the suburbs of Sydney to Lebanese migrant parents Lina lived in a world of two cultures: the Lebanese one at home and the Australian one at school. She is proud of her Australian-Lebanese upbringing and brings her passion for food and hospitality to her work.

Lina quietly became a local celebrity with her #spreadhummusnothate community campaign in 2016-17. The community campaign which had her visiting local churches and even the local police station quickly gained media attention and took her by surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting this kind of coverage to be honest,” Lina explains on her blog The Lebanese Plate. “In fact, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. What I did know was I didn’t want this to be a political or religious movement. What I was hoping though was to connect people, not online, but in real world situations.”

The idea behind the campaign was to encourage real human interaction between people from different walks of life. To build bridges, rather than burn them.

As she explains she “wanted to take the powerful act of food sharing — something so ridiculously obvious and commonplace — to break down barriers and build friendships. I needed people, myself included, to take a step outside their comfort zone and ask questions, have conversations and learn more about ‘the other’ who may live next door, down the road or the next neighbourhood.

“Essentially I wanted to take it offline with the intention to bring people together who usually wouldn’t run in each others’ circles. People who wouldn’t usually sit and have a conversation. I wanted to give the average Australian an opportunity to have open, respectful dialogue so they can see that although we all have our differences, we can still get along and live in the one society, harmoniously.”

The #spreadhummusnothate campaign has slowed down now as she is busy with a number of things, but she brings her passion to connect people over food and hospitality to everything she does.

Breaking down stereotypes

Lina will speak at the annual Iftar Dinner in partnership with Affinity Interfaith Foundation, the Uniting Church in Australia and Uniting at Parramatta Mission on 5 June and share her insights into how hospitality and food can bring people together, break down stereotypes and build harmony.

“I have been thinking about [stereotypes] recently and I think it is interesting that with some of the cooking shows on television like My Kitchen Rules (MKR) and Masterchef, the way they introduce contestants is so different,” explains Lina.  “MKR is all about stereotypes, which is what bugs me about that show, because it is all based around these stereotypes that people have in their minds which is really frustrating. Watching Masterchef there are also contestants from different cultural backgrounds and different walks of life and it is just about the food and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

“That is what makes Australia so unique as a country, the fact that we are all so different and we each bring different things. People take for granted how simple the act of sharing a coffee can bring people together.”

“Dialogue is essential because only when we listen, exchange experiences and talk about the mundane over a cup of coffee (or bowl of hummus!) will we begin to see our minds broaden. We will be able to break down walls and recognise just how much we have in common.”

Would your congregation like to host an Iftar Dinner?

Lina has shared some of her recipes to host your own local Iftar Dinner together with some tips about how to host a dinner, you can download the resource pack here.

Adrian Drayton




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