2 Jul 2024

By Kasia Stepien

Walk with Me – Second Multi-Faith Peace Walk organised by Plum Village UK and Quakers

On the 23rd June thousands of us gathered in Parliament Square to walk together in silent meditation and remembrance for people killed in war, collectively calling for the end of killing.

In the face of escalating violence and loss of life in over 100 wars and armed conflicts worldwide, including Palestine, Israel, Sudan, Ukraine, Myanmar and many more, the silent vigil aimed to transcend religious and cultural boundaries.

Rehena, one of the organisers of the London’s walk says:

‘This walk symbolises our commitment, each purposeful step connecting our broken hearts, unified in the hope – hope for peace built upon the unshakeable pillars of love, compassion, justice and reverence for all life’

The walk began with prayers offered by a diverse group of grassroots faith representatives, predominantly women. We continued the slow meditative walk, pausing at key landmarks – weaving our energy of peace into London’s political landscape. You can read the opening words and prayers here..

The energy of London’s event inspired similar events on the same day taking place in Botswana, Detroit, Washington, Los Angeles, and an online event for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, all led by Plum Village practitioners and monastics.

We are touched to share a poetic reflection of the walk from one of Wake Up London practitioners Vedantha Kumar and a personal reflection from the UK Sangha practitioner and upcoming Being Peace Centre Trustee Bill Robinson.

Each step has a hint of hope

by Vedantha Kumar, Wake Up London Practitioner

Step, step, step. Each step an in-breath. Each step an out-breath.

Each step in memory of a child killed in war. Each step is heartbreaking.

I look at the feet of those walking with me. I imagine them as the feet of a child. Sometimes they are.

I imagine this child with all its hopes and dreams, joy and anger, love and life.

Each step in memory of a child killed in war. Each step is heartbreaking.

I see feet rushing on the sidewalks. Cyclists darting past. Cars honking with frustration as they wait for us. I see myself in all of them.

Each step carries the energy of those around me. Each step feels impossible.

Then I look up and down the street. I see an endless line of feet walking slowly, intentionally, silently, peacefully. Starting and ending at the statue of Gandhi and the memory of his satyagra. Starting and ending at the statue of Nelson Mandela and his “long walk to freedom”. Starting and ending at the statue of Millicent Fawcett and her suffrage pilgrimage.

Each step carries the energy of those that came before us. Each step has a hint of hope.

I see feet belonging to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jains. I see feet belonging to other faiths and none. I see feet belonging to different skin colours. Different ages. Different weights as they each make their way onto the ground.

Each step carries the energy of those with me. Each step has a hint of hope.

I see feet approach me, asking what this is for. I explain it is a walk for peace, though I don’t really know what that means. But I feel it. I see them slow down as they approach us. I see them ask to join next time. I see them smile.

Each step carries the energy of those that will come after us. Each step has a hint of hope.

The next day, I cycle through Whitehall. I see the feet from yesterday. They are still there. I slow down. I breathe. I see millions of us walking the same way. Each step is for peace. Each step gives me hope.

The quiet, gentle power of silence

by Bill Robinson, Being Peace Practice Centre project Trustee, practices with Stroud Sangha

‘This was an extraordinary experience. The quiet, gentle power of silence, communicated through collective action. Our clear and unambiguous message. Peace. Arguably the most fundamental root issue we face in our world. We walked together, people of all faiths and none, people of all ages, reflecting the richness and diversity of our communities across the UK, Europe and the world.

Before we wove through streets that led us to our gathering by the statues of Mandela and Gandhi amongst others, we listened to words and prayers spoken by women of a myriad of faiths, in unison with a heartfelt demonstration by Ukrainians across the square. Somehow that felt a poignant backdrop to what merged into a soundscape of sirens, traffic, other vocal protests, and the deep undertone of the
heart of this city.

Amongst the beautifully diverse faith representatives, the presence of monastics from Plum Village in France evoked the presence of our beloved teacher Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), and his deep love of walking meditation. I was mindful of walking meditations on the paths through the tall trees at Plum Village in France as we walked in slow silence up Whitehall, pausing briefly at Downing street and by the war memorial for women who lost their lives in World War 2.

For me, as a incoming Trustee of our Being Peace project to establish a practice centre and eventual monastery for the Plum Village tradition in the UK, this walk was a profoundly impactive and deeply affecting moment in time. I take to heart both the responsibility and opportunity that the Being Peace centre holds for future generations. This Peace Walk, through London with it’s deep history of conflict, war, love and peace, both echoed and communicated the depth of support for what we are trying to achieve.

Thay shared with us in his poem ‘Walking Meditation’:
“… we learn
That there is no peace walk
That peace is the walk
We walk for ourselves
We walk for everyone …
Earth will be safe
When we feel in us enough safety”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Cover photo by Michael Preston for Quakers in Britain.