12 Feb 2024

By Kasia Stepien

Peace is Every Step: faiths come together to walk for peace

‘Peace is Every Step’ Silent Walking Meditation on 21st January was joined by representatives from eleven faiths who offered their prayers prior to starting the silent walk towards the Parliament Square. The prayers reinforced the diverse yet unified call for peace. Read prayers here..

Below you will find reflections from three faith representatives that joined us on the day and Rehena Harilall, one of the main organisers of the event.

One message alone: Peace, peace and peace

When Rehena Harilall invited me to represent Buddhism at a multifaith peace walk, I felt deeply humbled and moved, sensing this was something different to a protest or a march. Organised by the Quakers and Plum Village UK, the walk aimed to embody a unified message of peace. Standing on the steps of Trafalgar Square, representatives of many faiths offered prayers; diverse in expression, transcendent in goal, gladdening our hearts with hope. As we walked meditatively and in silence through central London, an aura of peacefulness enveloped the city and even the birds could be heard. Onlookers were drawn to join in our slow step, whilst stewards and police kept us safe. 

With an Imam brother on my left, and a Rabbi sister on my right, I was struck by how powerful yet effortless it can be to walk gently alongside another – who may be of a different race, gender or religion –  when our hearts share the values that make us truly human. Our individual prayers and collective walking conveyed one message alone: Peace, peace and peace. Because happiness and love, our heart’s deepest yearnings, can never be found through war. – Venerable Canda, Spiritual Director of Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project www.anukampaproject.org

River of Peace flowing through London

The peace walk, in silence was a profound statement that war is not a solution and that all human life is sacred. As we passed the Cenotaph in Whitehall, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, I was aware that here decisions are made that affect the lives of millions if not billions around the world. 

I meditated deeply on the need for wisdom in decision making; putting humanity at the heart of our thoughts, words and actions. There is a need to recognise the power of non-violence and the healing power of love – Divine love. Humanity is traumatised by violence and more violence brings more trauma. The recognition that each human being, each human soul has an original state of peace is the first step towards a new perspective of peace in which we do not wish to harm any person or any living creature. The atmosphere of us all together, from many faith traditions created a ripple effect of the power of peace reaching out far beyond our location and far across the world. – Maureen Goodman, Brahma Kumari

God would not give us power to fight one another; God gives us power for peace.

Dadi Janki

Sacred Silence

I did not expect to find myself front and centre along the route. That said, it was an awesome feeling to be walking alongside such a visible diversity and inclusivity of faiths, whilst sharing a common intent. Never before had I walked with intention immediately flanked by a Sikh and a Muslim, as well as the other faiths that formed the first couple of lines. There was something about a sacred silence that made the march more profound. There was also a joyous moment when a toddler moved to the front and cycled on their bike ahead of all those gathered. It stopped me being too introspective and disappearing up my own fundament and was probably the one part of the Meditation Walk where a natural smile radiated across my face.

As for the diversity and inclusivity, it felt a significant moment to me to be invited to participate as someone who followed Druidry. It was inspiring to focus on what united us rather than the more common perspective of what separates us –  Ricky Gellissen, a member of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

Interconnectedness of pain and joy in the journey of peace-building

by rehena Harilall

In response to the escalating violence and warfare witnessed in over 30 wars and armed conflicts worldwide, including the devastation in Gaza and Israel – the increasing destruction of lives, starvation, displacement, hostage taking, unjust detentions and the growing retaliatory violence and demonisation of others, I felt compelled to take action. This led to a petition delivered to Downing Street, a peace meditation gathering, and this multi-faith public peace walking meditation. 

I am deeply moved that these simple initiatives resonated with so many individuals. Gratefully acknowledging the energy of my spiritual, ancestral, and genetic lineage, I honour those who advocated for peace, non-violence, reconciliation, and justice before me. Inspired by their legacy, I strive to embody these values in my actions, contributing positively to the world I share with others.

The impact of organising a peace walk, a simple yet powerful idea, was deeply personal for me – a Black woman growing up in apartheid South Africa.  As it unfolded, it resonated with many individuals and organisations, touching their hearts. Witnessing the ripple effect of unity and solidarity as diverse groups joined in support was truly moving. The solidarity as we walked in silence reflected our shared intention for peace and justice. The silence connected us on a profound level, while the white flowers we carried symbolised our unwavering commitment to cultivating peace for ourselves and our world. The feminine essence permeated the energy, starting from the organising team and extending to the various faith representatives in attendance.

The majority of faith representatives sharing were people of colour, adding resonance to our collective call for peace, reconciliation, and justice—a stance of critical significance given that the destruction of life disproportionately affects and dehumanises people of colour.

As people of colour, advocating for peace amidst centuries of pain and trauma demands extraordinary courage, compassion, and love. This echoes the enduring examples set by leaders such as Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, and Thich Nhat Hanh, who steadfastly championed love over hate, reconciliation over retribution, and justice as the foundation for sustained peace.

True peace advocacy transcends rhetoric; it necessitates embodying peace in our thoughts, actions, and relationships, actively re-pairing the fabric of our society. It saddens me that the media often failed to capture the essence and inclusivity of our event, diminishing the voices of people of colour. It reflects the long road ahead in nurturing our collective humanity for peace and justice.

Reflecting on this experience, I hold both joy and sadness in my heart, recognizing the interconnectedness of pain and happiness in the journey of peace-building. Building bridges is far more challenging than tearing them down. The essence of my being recognizes that my peaceful existence is intricately interwoven and inseparable from that of those whom I consider to be “the other.” 

So, tomorrow, and the next day, and the next—over and over, “  I will rise up!. Like air I rise up, like wind I rise up and I will do it over and over again, thousand times over if I have to stepping reverently in the wise footsteps of my ancestors, embodied in the knowledge that the path to peace is paved with peace itself. – rehena Harilall, Plum Village UK, Order of Interbeing Member

We continue coming together in peace online, every Monday – Saturday 7pm – 7:30pm via this link: bit.ly/togetherinpeace.

Every other Tuesday evening (7pm – 8pm UK time) we offer a longer session with sharing space: Engaged Practice for Peace

Main photo credit: Michael Preston for Quakers in Britain