December 23rd, 2013
And a Pilgrimage for Peace
Syria is not as present in the media as it used to be. Thus, the Syria Peace & Justice Group was founded as a grassroots group in order to keep the memory of the victims and refugees alive. Being one of the Jesuits who live in the Hurtado Jesuit Centre, I liked the idea of taking part in the group as a way of following Pope Francis’ call to prayer for Syria. We are working closely together with the Syrian National Coordination Body which strives for a peaceful solution of the conflict. Our aims are an immediate ceasefire in order to allow for humanitarian aid to enter the area, an agreement on the part of foreign actors to stop fuelling the conflict through weapon supplies, and a release of political prisoners on all sides. In addition, we call on the UK and other countries to accept their fair share of refugees.
As the 10th of December was International Human Rights Day, we had organised a ‘Peace Pilgrimage’ in London. Two groups assembled in Westminster and Kensington and made their way to various gouvermental institutions and foreign embassies in order to deliver a peace petition. Then, around four hours later, both groups met in front of the US embassy in Grosvenor Square. The group statement was read out and further plans were made to call in at the Turkish and at the German embassy. The rest of the group continued towards the embassies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia before proceeding to the Syrian embassy at Belgrave Square.
There we began our candlelit vigil, the spiritual part of the pilgrimage. After a while a Japanese Buddhist monk joined us who accompanied our act of remembrance with a gentle chant. Then we lined up along the embassy with candles and shared a few moments of silent reflections. The names of persons who have been incarcerated were read out and remembered. After a long day, we bid one another farewell and dispersed into the night.
I think the pilgrimage was a very good way of showing our solidarity with the Syrian people, especially with those who are suffering under violence and the consequences of war. To remember the ones who are suffering in our midst has always been at the heart of both the Jewish and the Christian tradition. The pilgrimage itself will not effect big changes, but we met many people along the way who shared our concerns and were happy to support us in one way or another.
by Matthias Kramm