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Reshaping pilgrimage for the age of austerity

PoliticsPosted by john sloboda Sat, May 19, 2012 13:23:23

A group of people will spend 10 days in June retracing the steps of the historic London to Canterbury Pilgrimage.

This is a great initiative for a sick society. I quote from its informative website:

"This summer, a group of concerned citizens from all walks of life will come together to recreate a modern version of an ancient journey in the hope of building a more equitable future. A two week long walk from London to Canterbury will culminate in a conference on social, economic and environmental justice.

Events held along the route will explore how local communities, faith communities, cooperatives, social organisations and individuals can identify common concerns and work together, reinventing the idea of civil society – the commons – as a potent force for social change. The Pilgrimage for Justice will be a highly visible statement of people’s determination to see a better, fairer society – and it will also provide a focus for exploring what that kind of society might look like, and the policy changes to propose for getting there."

I'm going to try and get to some of this and support it in what ways I can.

Why is this important?

1. It is a multi-faith initiative, open to all. Too much faith-based work is closed, and requires you to sign up to dogma before you can be involved.

2. People need tangible acts with symbolic significance to become more deeply aware of reality and moral imperatives. The walking pilgrimage goes back thousands of years, and appeals deeply to our common humanness.

3. Following the diminution of the visible presence of Occupy in London, and a certain recent lack of energy and direction, the UK social justice movement needs new expressions, which can encompass a far wider segment of society than those willing and able to pitch a tent in central London.

This has strong personal resonance for me. Around 20 years ago, a wonderful group of concerned US citizens decided to go on a peace pigrimage from Washington to Moscow. They walked all the way (apart from crossing sea by air or boat). It took 9 months in all, and for several weeks of that they walked down the UK from Scotland to Dover. Every night they met with, and were cared for by, a different local community.

I had the privilege of being part of the UK organising and welcoming team, fixing up their UK stays, and being closely involved with their visit to the place I then lived in, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. It was a wonderful experience, drawing us all closer together, and doing something very real, fundamental, but profound together. I still remember the few days the walkers were in Staffordshire very clearly - it was a real high point. In those days, some local authorities had some guts. The City of Stoke on Trent was a proclaimed Nuclear Free Zone, and the walkers - with their total nuclear disarmament message - were given the freedom of the city, and welcomed personally by the Mayor.

This walk deserves success, both for the individuals directly involved, and in their wider outreach into society and the media. Join me on 7th June at St Paul's Cathedral to give them a good send off?

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