journeys at home and abroad
We were out in the beautiful autumn sunlight this afternoon at Battersea Park. One of us went down to the riverbank – it was low tide – and looked for old clay tobacco pipes which were used from the end of the C16th until the mid C20th for smoking once and then thrown away. Rather like the little unfired clay pots used for drinking chai on Indian trains – used once then thrown away – hygienic, environmentally friendly, and the tea always tasted good in them, too.
I’m not a great pipe-spotter so I meandered along to the Peace Pagoda, built in 1985 by monks and volunteers of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order of Japan and looked after by Reverend Gyoro Nagase, who led the building work 25 years ago. By chance I came across a multifaith ceremony for world peace organised by Westminster Interfaith. Prayers from eleven religious traditions were offered and the yellow sheet gave us the words for peace in 12 languages.
Mir, Shanti, Shalom, Salaam, Wa, Amani, La Paix, La Pace, La Paz, Pax, Der Frieden, Heddwch
I recognised some of the people taking part – from the Caribbean Hindu Temple in Lambeth, Churches Together in Balham & Upper Tooting and the Ahmadiyya community’s Baitul Futuh centre in Morden, as well as Revd Nagase himself. There were about 25 people there and you could say – what a tiny number of folk compared to all the people in the park today. You could also say – familiar faces doing familiar things doesn’t mean that a shared understanding of different religious traditions is becoming widespread or even desirable.
I would say that these simple, small gatherings of ordinary people (most of the folk there were not religious leaders) are valuable, particularly events which are held in public or are open to the public. It’s good that it is part of our normal everyday life, as it was part of mine today, to find people from different traditions (dressed in particular ways, speaking & singing in unfamiliar languages, doing their own thing) intentionally coming together and standing in solidarity for positive values – understanding, goodwill, respect, peace.
It normalises it – it’s not so weird to get on with people who are (very) different from you.