A Pilgrim for Peace
When I began my 5000-km pilgrimage, I had grand ideas for how I would bring peace to Jerusalem, a region dear to my heart.
I was born and raised in Canada, but my family’s roots run deep in Lebanon. I grew up watching The National on CBC every night at 10:00pm, waiting for news that would indicate resolution of any form to the conflicts that plagued the region. I listened from the sidelines as men gathered in our small living room debating the latest happenings in the area, fascinated by the complexity of it all, the friend one day becoming foe the next.
I embraced without question this idea, popular at the time, that there could be no peace without justice. To me, that meant outer action, be it as demonstrations or non-violent resistance.
After 9/11, my pilgrimage fromRome to Jerusalem became my action for peace. I was going to walk to Jerusalem and I was going to call on Palestinians, Israelis and Arabs across all religious and political lines to join me in this Utopian walk for peace and, in one large demonstration, call for unity in a land divided.
I began walking alone in November of 2001, and was joined by a Spanish pilgrim. A deeply spiritual man – a bit of a modern mystic – Alberto would challenge my ideas and intentions for this walk. Sure he cared about peace, but he looked upon our pilgrimage as a quest to uncover our hidden beliefs and expectations and, in healing them, create inner peace.
I agreed with him, of course, but was intently focused on outer action.
“We need to tell people to work for peace in their communities and not wait for someone to create it for them,” I insisted. “We need social activists, people creating bridges with those whose ideas differ from their own.”
I spoke with great conviction about personal responsibility in creating peace with whomever I met, from Italy to the former Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece. Entering Turkey, and having now walked seven months, several encounters forced me to re-examine this inner aspect of peace.
I met individuals who lived in peaceful settings but who were deeply conflicted and hate-filled, speaking only of revenge and an eye-for-an-eye justice. I met others coming out of civil war, whose communities were still unstable, who spoke of reconciliation and whose hearts were filled with hope and optimism despite the atrocities they had lived through.
Could inner peace, despite the political or social climate, be the key to creating outer peace?
How could I work for agencies or create programs dedicated to reconciliation and peace when my own heart was divided? When I still held so much anger and resentment? When I saw certain groups as “right” and others as “wrong”? When I still had expectations of how peace should look like? What kind of peace was I bringing?
That became my true journey: peeling back those layers that, like a cloak, covered the peace within me, reconciling with my personal demons and standing in confident stillness in the peace that was emerging and entrenching within me.
No, I didn’t have the massive peace march of my dreams when I arrived in Jerusalem thirteen months later. But I did have something infinitely more powerful: a roadmap for being peace in the world, which I carry with me to this day.
By: Mony Dojeiji, author, social entrepreneur and pilgrim (www.walkingforpeace.com).