It has been 19 years since one of the churches in our little town started organizing a Peace Walk on the first day of each year and inviting everyone to join. As a Baha’i, I welcomed the invitation. Oneness of mankind and peace on earth is every Baha’i’s dream so with great joy I attended the first peace walk and I have been doing it since. We walk by going through the centre of the town so that we are seen by the cars on the road which mostly honk in support of peace. Each of my fellow peace walkers who are from different groups, hold their homemade signs quoting sayings from their religions or ideologies. I made the sign quoting Baha’u’llah the Founder of the Baha’i Faith saying “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” After the walk, we all go to a small and cozy hall in the basement of a senior’s facility. There is not a set program since we all know why we are there even though we are of different religions and some of us of no faith but fully aware that peace is essential to all of us and that is the reason why we are meeting here. There is a feeling of togetherness sensed by all. There are religious and non-religious songs, reciting poetry and small talks on peace. After that, we all are invited to go for lunch to a Sikh temple nearby to enjoy the homemade food prepared by the Sikh community.
There are so many aspects of this peace walk that I like, but mainly being practical and also its simple approach to creating peace and oneness, by sharing ideas, prayers, music and food with people of different backgrounds appeals to me immensely. It is like a small family each member representing different country and religion eating together.
This year, one the Baha’is said a payer about peace and unity.
“O Thou kind Lord!
Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence. O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy. O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony. O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind. O God! Establish the Most Great Peace. Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together. O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence. Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the One Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 100
After a few songs and a talk about the need for taking care of the refugees who are coming to our country from different war thorn places and are facing some challenges. After that, there was a song by a 12-year-old Muslim boy that was very heartwarming. Then came the turn of another Baha’i who was a refugee himself, to talk about the biggest hindrance to peace, the prejudices with particular emphasis on the harms of religious prejudice. This was important since it gave a chance to the audience who were mostly religious to take stock of their own feelings about other religions.
Baha’i Teachings tell us the importance of the removal of all kinds of prejudices.
Prejudices of religion, race or sect destroy the foundation of humanity. All the divisions in the world, hatred, war and bloodshed, are caused by one or other of these prejudices. The whole world must be looked upon as one single country, all the nations as one nation, all men as belonging to one race. Religions, races, and nations are all divisions of man’s making only, and are necessary only in his thought; before God there are neither Persians, Arabs, French nor English; God is God for all, and to Him all creation is one. We must obey God, and strive to follow Him by leaving all our prejudices and bringing about peace on earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 131
One of the problems for not attaining peace today and in the past has been the lack of actions. There have been so many talks and books about this subject but not enough efforts to achieve it. The main reason is that maybe it is very hard to bring people of different backgrounds together to spend time with each other and share ideas and food with one another. As Baha’is, we are encouraged to participate in any process that ensures peace by actions and not words.
“I beseech God that He may graciously enable every one of you to adorn himself, in this blessed Day, with the ornament of pure and holy deeds.” -Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 205
Peace looks like an unattainable dream, but it should not be that way. People on our peace walk have simplified it to small steps of coming out and being visible and being heard. There is no reason why you cannot do the same and reach out to the like-minded people or organizations and facilitate similar events. In this way, we can be the catalysts of peace and not the bystanders on the sidelines.
The added benefit of events like this is that besides the benefits of a walk can provide you and also the opportunity of getting to know like-minded people is the free and delicious food. Not a bad deal working for peace.