31 Jan 2024

By Kasia Stepien

Peace is Every Step: hundreds join silent walk in central London (part 1)

On Sunday, 21st January more than thousand people joined the Peace Is Every Step: Multi-Faith silent walking meditation for Peace. 

Walking together for Peace

Organised by Plum Village UK and Quakers in Britain, the event aimed at transcending religious and cultural boundaries and brought us together  to call for peace amidst the rising challenges of hatred, anger, destruction, displacement, and suffering.

Many friends from the Sangha, together with hundreds of people from all faiths and none, met in Trafalgar Square to chant Namo ‘Valo, called back to the present by the sound of the bell between prayers for peace from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha’i, Jain and Zoroastrian faith leaders. – Murray, UK Dharma Teacher

Opening prayers from faith representatives reinforced the diverse yet unified call for peace. Imam Asim Hafiz (Islamic Advisor and Imam, Ministry of Defence), Maureen Goodman (Brahma Kumaris), Rabbi Alexandra Wright (President, Liberal Judaism), Ven Canda (Buddhist monastic) and Mandip Singh (Sikh, Khalsa Jatha) were among those offering prayers. Read prayers here..

Listening to Rehena and other faith leaders share prayers and intentions for peace was really moving at a time when we are witnessing so much division in conflict and echoes of it in our personal lives.Tamsin, Wake Up London, Colours of Compassion Sangha

Weaving the energy of peace in political landscape of London

More than thousand diverse participants walked in silence along Whitehall from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square and back, feeling our feet connecting with the Earth and weaving the energy of peace between the city’s key political landmarks. Without flags, placards, slogans or chants people of diverse faiths and none carried hand-made white flowers as a reminder that everyone has a role to play in cultivating a more peaceful world. ‘Hand making it is an investment of our energy into the cultivation of peace – for peace to be sustained we all need to make both a collective  and personal contribution.’ – says our sangha sibling Rehena Harilall, one of the main organisers of the event.

Perhaps the most profound experience was the quietness we cultivated as we gently walked between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, arm in arm, bolstered by friends and strangers who also wished to walk the path of peace in every step. It felt hopeful.Tamsin, Wake Up London and Colours of Compassion Sangha

Honouring Thay’s energy through our steps

For Plum Village practitioners, the walk was also an opportunity to silently recognise the continuation of our spiritual teacher on the day of his two-year Memorial Ceremony, honouring the many peaceful walks he led in London and the collective sitting meditation he offered in March 2012, at Trafalgar Square.

It felt like Thay was there with us. The palpable energy of love and peace permeated the prayers, the streets, the silent walking – gathering us together as a river that is never separate. And that energy is resonating in me now – connecting me to times past with Thay in Trafalgar Square and St James Park. And reminding me that we create the future now. Our peace and love now is so needed in our world.

So many sangha friends were there – from all over the UK. And for us it was also personal, so close to the anniversary of Thay’s passing it was a way we could honour our wonderful, wise, peace loving teacher. – Vari, UK Dharma Teacher

photo by Alex Nunn

Rooting ourselves in peace and silence

The walk, covered by ITV London News (1.42), BBC Radio London – Inspirit with Jumoke Fashola and the Guardian, was supported by volunteers from our Sanghas, Quakers and Extinction Rebellion groups who looked after safety and smooth running of the event. We are very grateful to the organisers, volunteers and all participants who joined us on the day.

The nicest thing about the walk for me, being a steward at the front, was the feedback from passers by. As we walked along many came up to me and asked what we were doing. They were all kinds of different people, but from all of them the response was the same. They were all supportive. That says a lot I think, if we’re ever tempted to lose faith in humanity in current times. – Ross, Plum Village UK, Heart of London

The walk has an impact on the public witnessing the event and participants who walked together in silence, reminding us not what we stand against, but what we stand for. The act of walking shows intentionality and the interconnection with one another. Every step we are making is a commitment to peace, resourcing ourselves and each other to face the rising violence, hatred and destruction of life with solidity and tenderness.

(…) When the events in the news feel so overwhelming and hopeless, being able to join your walk gave hope and purpose that we can do something. (…)

I definitely still feel the energy created by the walk still with me while I’m at school supporting my students and hope I’m giving that energy to them, I’m much more aware of that this week and as one of the speakers said, trying to radiate that peace.  – Julia, attendee

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