Saturday, September 07, 2013

Diary of a Pilgrimage for Peace in Brisbane

On Saturday September 7 I led a pilgrimage of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria through the suburbs of Brisbane.This initiative was a response to the call of Pope Francis that the day be dedicated by  public acts of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and around the world.

Prayer and fasting are  common religious  practices and the Pope  invited  Christians, people of  all religions and  those of good will to join this act of peacemaking”  As this day was also the Federal Election day the cause of peace and justice called for creative public witness to values that have been neglected by the major parties during the campaign.”

My hope is that this public witness will also result in the Australian Government choosing to support humanitarian aid rather then military intervention in Syria.

How do you go on pilgrimage in the city? I happen to have one of the Jubilee Staves that were given as symbols of the Biblical call to Jubilee in 2000 by the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Unfortunately the only online reference to these majestic items is a vexatious piece from Illinois of all places!! At least the stave stands out and I was able to make a couple of signs Pray for Syria that fluttered at the top.It was a bit challenging getting on and off buses and I was asked a few time through the day if it was a new kind of didgeridoo.

0800 Prayer at Polling Booth St Mark's Uniting Church Mnt Gravavtt East. This Uniting Church is a community hub that witnesses online and in the pews to the Gospel of Jesus. I began my pilgrimage here as it is both a local polling booth and a community that inspires me.I was joined by Anne Marie who is married to a Syrian. She had heard of the Pope's call for prayer and went online to find out if anything was arranged and found me in Google. (as one does,lol) We chatted and stood in silent prayer. Greetings from a couple of locals and visitors in the line waiting to vote built the solidarity.

1030 Holy Hour and Eucharist Cathedral of St Stephen Elizabeth Street Brisbane. When I arrived at the Cathedral a group of people were gathering for a morning tea. They were a home schooling community and one of the members came over to tell me that they had included a prayer for Syria in the Mass which they had just celebrated. The woman I was speaking to went on to tell me that her son was standing for Family First at the election so I asked about the weather on Toowoomba. and we had a much more engaging conversation. A group gathered to pray the rosary and a good crowd arrived for the Mass. the only response I got from members of the congregation was a young woman who asked if I was Catholic and then walked away seemingly relieved.

1230 Prayer at Eternal Flame Anzac Square Brisbane. From this point on I stood alone in the city with traffic passing by and the occasional tourist who stooped to take a pic at the Shrine.These places gave me time to

1330 Prayer at Defense Force Recruitment Centre 410 Ann Street Brisbane. This  is  an imposing "Tower" across the road from  St John's Anglican Cathedral which will host the Brisbane Peace Day Lecture by Hon Michael Kirby on September 21st. .

1400 Prayer at Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade150 Charlotte Street Brisbane.  This like so many other city buildings is designed to impress with its glass, chrome and height. There is no public signage that tells passers by of the offices inside.

1530 Prayer at Griffith Electoral Office of PM Kevin Rudd  630 Wynnum Road Morningside. By this time of the afternoon my feet were dragging a bit and it was good to have 20 minutes on a bus trip to the next stop. For the first time in the day I was greeted by others waiting to join me. Erin and Sandra welcomed me and a short time later we were rejoined by Anne Marie who  came with her husband Maurice.  We stood together, three Australians and two Syrians talking of grief, anxiety and loss.We spoke of the destruction of Maaloula stood in silent praye trusting that our witness would strengthen each other and encourage others who would want to be with us.

1700 Labyrinth Walk for Peace  Brisbane Powerhouse. The day finished with other members of Sandra's Family joining Erin and I for a peace walk at the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth meditation is a powerful exercise on pilgrimage. The walk takes your body through a pattern of circular trails to a centre space and then retraces your steps before sending you back out to the maze of life.For the first time  in my life  I walked with Syrians together seeking a peaceful and nonviolent resolution to conflict. Our farewell hugs were embraces of commitment that I will not rest from peacemaking and promoting  the way of nonviolence.

1800 Breaking of the Fast Tibetan Kitchen 454 Brunswick Street Fortitude Valley. One of the best parts of any penitential act is the  breaking of a fast and the celebration that all of us can undergo a change of heart to the way of Jesus and other great women and men of peace. In religious  tradition the sharing of food and drink is a sacred act that bonds community. To finish the day eating food from another culture in "The Valley" also reminded me  of a  graced diversity that nurtures life to the full. As Erin and I walked back to the train station the people who greeted us were Aboriginal people and a colourful Valley identity, Clinton who uses a wheelchair for mobility.Pilgrimages never finish!!

Some of the text I will use through the day includes  set of prayers and meditations composed by Rev John Dear SJ for the International Day of Nonviolence. You can download this text here.

In the Archdiocese of Brisbane  the week of 8-15 September will be a time of special prayer for Syria, with a day of fasting on Friday, 13 September.  

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