During my latter years in Kampala (UGK Province), I belonged to an interreligious/intercultural group for dialogue. It was during the wars which shook the country for so long.
The group decided to have a ‘demonstration’ for peace, in the park located in the heart of the city, at rush hour one evening.
What kind of ‘demonstration’?
A demonstration of SHARED PRAYER. But how to NAME ‘God’ among all the religions that would be present, while keeping communion among us?
The decision was made to have an hour of SILENT PRAYER, in full view of the passers-by. The hour chosen was from 6-7 pm in the evening. So we came with our candles.
At exactly 6 pm, a little bell was rung. Silence immediatley fell on the group of about 100 participants. We sat down on the grass in a big circle, and each one entered into silent prayer. I was very impressed by the composition of the group and the deep recollection of everyone.
Facing me were two North African Muslim men and two Punjabi Sikhs, with their large turbans, sitting in Yoga position. There were indigenous people from Mexico; Africans – Christian and Muslim, young and old; Americans and Europeans of different denominations.....all plunged in intense prayer.
At 6.30 pm it was dark; silently we lit our candles, and placed them on the grass in front of us.
Since this was a ‘demonstration’, the police was present, but seeing us all sitting down, they too sat down at a little distance from us, and they also received a lighted candle ... They seemed to have joined in our prayer.
All of this, without a word, in complete silence.
At exactly 7 pm, the little bell was rung once more.
We stood up and began to share with each other in a simple and friendly way. There was joy on everyone’s face and we all agreed: ‘We must do this again.’
For me, this was one of the most precious experiences of shared prayer I have ever had. And so I wonder if our testimony during this type of ‘Demonstration for Peace’ is equally efficacious as a form of dialogue for peace and communion as the more noisy and spectacular ones?
Doreen Boland RSCJ
Province of Ireland-Scotland