Nineteen years ago, one of the churches in our little town started organizing a Peace Walk on the first day of each year. They invited everyone to join. As a Baha’i, I welcomed the invitation since Baha'is all over the world actively work for the oneness of humanity and peace on Earth, so with great joy, I attended the first Peace Walk and have participated in each one since the beginning.
The Peace Walk’s route takes us through the center of town, and the cars on the road mostly honk in support of peace. Each of my fellow peace walkers—all from different groups—hold their homemade signs quoting sayings from their religions or ideologies. My sign said: “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens -Baha’u’llah
After the walk, we all go to a cozy hall of a senior housing facility. There is no set program since we all know why we're there. We come from different religions, and some of us have no faith at all, but we each know that peace is essential to all of us. That shared conviction creates a feeling of togetherness sensed by everyone. We spontaneously sing religious and non-religious songs, recite poetry and give short talks on peace. After that, everybody is invited to go for lunch at a Sikh temple nearby to enjoy the delicious homemade food prepared by the Sikh community.
I like many aspects of the Peace Walk, but mainly appreciate its practical, simple approach to creating peace and oneness by sharing ideas, prayers, music and food with people from different backgrounds. This unity in diversity appeals to me immensely. It feels like a small family, with each member representing a different country and religion, sitting down to eat and enjoy each other’s company together.
After a few songs, we all listened to a talk about the need to take care of the refugees and then came the turn of one of the Baha’is, a refugee himself, who talked about the biggest hindrance to peace—prejudice. He paid particular attention to the harm religious prejudice can inflict on society. His talk gave a chance to the audience, who were mostly religious, to take stock of their own feelings about other religions.
One of the main hindrances preventing us from attaining peace today has involved only talking about peace and not taking real, substantive actions. We have many talks, books, conferences, treaties and noble thoughts about this subject—but not enough actual effort to achieve true peace:
“Love ye all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere and show that love through deeds and not through the tongue; for the latter hath no importance, as the majority of men are, in speech, well-wishers, while action is the best.” – Abdu’l-Baha
I hope that more people use the example of multi-faith action of our little town and participate in projects and processes that ensure peace by acts and not only words. Peace these days seems 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, being visible and being heard—then showing that we can peacefully unite despite any differences we may have. There is no reason why we all cannot do the same by reaching out to like-minded people or organizations and facilitating similar events. In this way, we can be the active catalysts of peace and not just passive bystanders on the sidelines.
Badi Shams is a Baha’i and a mystic at heart whose field of interest is in economics. He has published a compilation "Economics of the Future", and also more recently the book "Economics of the Future Begins Today". He is retired from the educational system. You can read more of Badi's materials on his website www.badishams.net
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, December 7th 2019