The peace march: an Asian perspective

The march was scheduled to begin at 5.30 in the evening in front of the big market, which is 137 years old but recently renovated. By 3.00 in the afternoon one could see a sea of flags and banners, of people chanting and dancing. There was a general air of pleasantness. We walked into the mass of moving people not knowing whether the march was moving or whether it had stopped. Somebody gave us three banners that SAPI (South Asia Peoples Initiative) had brought from India. We had the banners but no sticks, and we decided to hold them aloft in our arms. Soon some in our group managed to find a few sticks from abandoned flags. Even this act seemed symbolic of a certain mysterious continuity?some had carried their flags, got tired and had thrown them down on the road, and others, like ourselves, who came behind, picked them up to carry them forward under another name. Seeing the name ?Asia? many came and took photographs. A few Indians belonging to other delegations stopped for a few words of recognition and comfort. As we walked we spotted a Belgium Jesuit who was watching the march from a side street. He recognised the group from the Forum in Mumbai and came rushing, a radiant smile beaming on his face to embrace the group. It was moving and symbolic. There are Jesuits where you least expect them! There is something special in carrying a flag or a banner; it is a way of communicating your interest or your cause, a way of raising your voice in a sea of voices. Some definitely discordant ! For instance, as we were marching along, a group from Manipur (a small state in Northeast India) came up, emboldened to display their own banners with politically strong slogans that might well be forbidden in India. We might not have agreed with the content but we marched side by side. Discord in the middle of an uninvited camaraderie !. Strange companions in a march, but such is the world in which we live. One of our companions decided to fall behind to watch other groups. The Sri Lankan group had organised itself behind us, marching with dignity and attracting a lot of respect, and seeing them, people remembered the tsunami victims. Caritas Internationalis in white came almost at the end. Their white apparel contrasted with the bright red shirts of all the international socialists, the communists and the members of the workers party (PT) of Brazil. By the time the last person in the march reached the ground it must have been well past 9.30 in the evening.