Pilgrimage for Ceasefire

Last month, people around the world walked 22 miles in solidarity with Gaza. AFSC’s Allison Tanner reflects on that day.

By Allison Tanner

“We call for cease-fire, we walk for lasting peace”

This was the refrain nearly 2,000 people in the Bay Area repeated throughout the day on Saturday, March 23, as people of all faiths and no faith came together to call for a lasting ceasefire. Despite rains that showered us off and on during our 12-hour journey, people kept rotating in and out of the parade at various moments of pause for prayer, reflection, singing, and nourishment. This 22-mile pilgrimage, mapping Gaza onto the Bay Area, was one of 173 such pilgrimages taking place across 19 countries. In the Bay, 15 dedicated souls walked the entire route.

Our journey began near the water and headed south, covering the distance from Gaza City to the Rafah crossing, a distance forcibly traversed by so many. It passed by several sacred sites of the Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people, the first peoples of the Bay, linking the tragic history of our land with the colonial endeavor taking place in Gaza. We offered lament and mourning, while finding hope in the rematriation of land taking place in our communities. Our path also passed by several houses of worship displaying “Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire Now” banners. Each of these congregations became a way-station, offering space for rest, refreshment, and encouragement.

Pilgrims wore sashes proclaiming “ceasefire,” and carried olive branches as a sign of solidarity with Palestinians whose lives, livelihoods, identity, and culture are under attack. We waved these branches declaring our desire for peace and affirming Palestinian resilience. For the Christians in the mix, this became a powerful representation of the palms of Palm Sunday, reminiscent of the crowd who flocked to Jesus’ message of liberation from occupation.

Across multiple religions, we affirmed our united beliefs in the sacredness of all people and our responsibility to intervene in the face of grave suffering. We collectively called for 1) an enduring and sustained ceasefire; 2) an immediate flow of life-saving food, water, aid, fuel, and humanitarian assistance; 3) a release of all hostages – both the Israeli hostages held by Hamas – and the Palestinian hostages held in the Israeli prison system; and 4) an end of occupation so a just peace can begin. At each of the five major transition points, faith leaders signed a letter to California Senators Butler and Padilla affirming these calls and asking them to meet with us to discuss them.

This pilgrimage allowed us to pray with our feet and put our prayer into action. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of community participation, the willingness of diverse groups to agree on shared goals, and the power of prayer, ritual, and community to unite us as we work together to bring into being a world in which all people are treated as sacred. When a vivid, magnificent rainbow emerged at mile 20, we felt a renewed sense of purpose; and that with each step of our 22-mile journey, we were moving closer to this world. 

Photo credit: Matthew Bridges

Outside Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church; one of 16 congregations displaying Ceasefire banners in the East Bay. Photo credit: Matthew Bridges

Photo credit: Peg Hunter

Walking by Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Photo credit: Peg Hunter

Photo Credit: David Solnit

Over 100 faith leaders signed a letter to Senators Padilla and Butler sharing our demands and calling for a meeting. Photo Credit: David Solnit

Photo Credit: David Solnit

Starting leg 3 of the walk. Photo Credit: David Solnit