Activity: Structure and Needs

This practice does not necessarily require many resources beyond coordination and some financial support. A local government can invite citizens to gather once or twice a month to go on a tour of different places of worship in a given neighborhood. At each stop, a representative would explain the beliefs of the religion at hand, clarifying the role of the place, and how the rituals are performed for example. The participants can engage in a debate after the visits, so everybody can share their perception and experience. The attendees would also be invited to ask questions at any time and discuss these religions. The walk would last several hours and include planned readings, dance performances, and moments of silence along the route. Educational and service related events can also be planned throughout the year.

As for a peace march, the route should be changed every year so that different parts of the city can be visited. To organize this walk, it is important to partner with the religious communities to schedule activities, lectures, etc. at each house of worship. The march is organized every year on the same day and should include important historically relevant places (places of killings, of liberation, of imprisonment). Survivors would be invited to testify and share their experiences. Politicians from all over the world, from all religions and all backgrounds would be invited to represent the group from which they come. The march may be concluded by a funeral prayer or a remembrance ceremony, uniting people from all backgrounds

 

Objectives: Impact and Focus

This initiative focuses on the citizens of a city or neighborhood. It creates and strengthens social links between neighbors and helps locals discover the diversity of religions in their communities. Through this tour, participants get to learn more about different religious practices, and thus develop their opinions based on facts rather than prejudice. This practice thus promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding between the participants and their community, consequently avoiding conflicts due to misunderstanding and ignorance.

The march aims to bring together diverse groups and individuals from across the city to plan an annual walk through monthly committee meetings, which are designed to encourage sustained interaction between people of different faiths, and include structuring, reflection, and dialogue. The organizing group also plans educational and service related events throughout the year to help sustain and draw upon the established network. This practice considers memory as a necessary tool for reconciliation. It teaches history to new generations through personal narratives and histories, and displays the unity of all groups present by marching against inhumanity. Therefore, it fosters peace between those communities and raises awareness about tragedies of the past, in order to prevent future ones from occurring, both on a national but also hopefully on an international level.

 

Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)

1.) City Tour of the Worship Places – Dirección General de Cultos – Gobierno de Buenos Aires – Argentina

This initiative has been led by the General Direction of Worship of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Since 2009, they have visited more than 200 places of worship and they have engaged more than 3,000 citizens of Buenos Aires. The General Direction of Worship in Buenos Aires was founded to promote the religious diversity of the city as a constructor of social links. They also serve as a bridge between the religious communities and the government: they receive the requests of the communities and transfer them to the concerned government body. They also organize different events to promote interfaith actions and dialogue, such as photo exhibitions or an interfaith cineclub. This initiative has been seen in other places such as in Philadelphia with the Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, or in Berlin with the Great Night of Religion.

 

2.) Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation in Philadelphia – The Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Since 2004, the annual Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation has drawn crowds ranging from 500 to 1,000 participants. The Philadelphia walk was inspired by similar events in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Philadelphia group operates without paid staff and on a budget of less than $10,000 a year; funds are raised through selling interfaith calendars and collecting individual and congregational offerings and donations. Every year, the Peace Walk lasts four to five hours and includes stops at mosques, churches, synagogues and parks in Philadelphia.  Each stop includes a brief program consisting of some combination of prayers, chanting, peace talks, music, poetry, liturgical dance and moments of silence. The Walk route is rotated each year so that congregations in different neighborhoods can host the event. In addition to attracting a growing number of young people, the Peace Walk leadership has expanded from the founding cohort, comprised of representatives from the three Abrahamic traditions, and now includes Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and other religious and secular representatives. Monthly meetings include time for dialogue and reflection as well as for planning the Walk.

 

3.) Peace March Srebrenica – Genocide March for Peace – Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Genocide March for Peace takes place every year and lasts three days. Muslim survivors, the rest of the Bosnian population, and foreigners visit the cemeteries, the principal places of killing and the escape routes of survivors. There are testimonies given by survivors, and at the end of the march participants are invited to a memorial service and a prayer to the victims.