Last week, a ground-breaking diplomatic event occurred. There wasn’t any of the typical diplomatic fanfare with motorcades, secret service or press conferences.
Rather than being a meeting between heads of state, this was something much more grassroots: a family in the United States and a family in Egypt shared a virtual meal and a conversation over Skype.
As part of the “Virtual Dinner Guest” project, this event aimed to help people understand each other’s culture, humanity and traditions, by bonding over one of the most fundamental of human pastimes: dinner.
Eric Maddox, director of the Virtual Dinner Guest project, has an academic background in international conflict resolution and started his career as a documentary filmmaker. While making films about communities affected by conflict in the Middle East, he came to understand that his documentaries were not directly serving those who were interviewed in the films.
By introducing Skype into the equation, Maddox realized he could help individuals who are touched by conflict to communicate, get to know and maybe even become friends with those on the opposite side of the struggle.
He says, “This is not a simple dinner party; many of these people are going through armed conflict and have lost family members.”
Maddox has already helped to facilitate Virtual Dinner Guest events between Israel and Palestine and between The United States and Mexico along the troubled border area of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Maddox argues, “It is harder to ignore, vilify or harm those with whom we have broken bread.”
Inaugural host countries for the Virtual Dinner Guest project include Mexico, Uganda, the United States, Ireland, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Cambodia and Lebanon. Maddox concludes, “We often won’t see eye to eye, but with the Virtual Dinner Guest Project, we can increase and empower the moments when we do.”
Here at Skype, we’re excited about the “Virtual Dinner Guest” project, and honored that we can play our part in providing technology that is helping people like Eric Maddox come up with unprecedented and inventive ways of bringing people from different cultures closer together.
If you are interested in participating or finding out more information about the Virtual Dinner Guest project, go to Virtualdinnerguest.com. Or you can dream up your own new way to use Skype to start conversations and bring people together.