Marching for Peace

On Saturday 10th January, I joined thousands of other people demonstrating in London to call for an end to the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. People gathered at a rally at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park and then the route led out of the park, past the Israeli Embassy and back to Hyde park again. Estimates for attendance vary widely: The Metropolitan Police claim 20,000, the BBC 50,000 and Stop The War coalition who organised the event claim 100,000. So why did I decide to add myself to that number?

My decision to attend this protest did not arise from any political affiliation, nor did it arise from any religious affiliation. I am not a citizen of or connected with either nation involved and I, myself, belong to no faith and favour no religious group above any other. However, I am a human being and inhabitant of this world with compassion and an obligation towards other people. On January 2nd, the UN declared that there was a significant humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The UN and other organisations had struggled to bring aid to the region because of ongoing military action and a failed ceasefire. So I decided to stand up and add my voice to the many who call for an end to the violence with its high toll on civilians. Since I started writing this post, there have also been concerns as to the types of weapons being used, especially regarding the high number of civilian casualties involved.

There were many groups present at the demonstration, including Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, and the ever present Socialist Workers. I have to say that it did feel good to be walking shoulder to shoulder with so many different groups in society all making their voices heard. As I walked, I found myself thinking about whether people would be interested in demonstrating under a humanist banner. I know that the Not-Quite-So-Friendly Humanist has written before about a lack of specifically humanist philanthropic charities, and the O Project aims to encourage volunteering among humanists and to raise the profile of humanists and atheists doing good works. After a little searching online, I found an already existing group in the USA called ‘Humanists for Peace‘. I think it’s a good idea. What do you think?

Would you want to gather together with other humanists and speak out for peace? Would you walk with a Humanists for Peace sign? Do you think it’s important for the world to know that humanists don’t just discuss their principles but live by them too? Let me know in the comments!

3 Responses to “Marching for Peace”

  1. 1 Tim Mills January 27, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Clare, well done for participating in such a prominent vocalization of a widespread sentiment.

    I would be happy to carry a sign expressing my position as a humanist, in solidarity with other people of like values (Humanist or not).

    As for humanist charities, I happily donate to Oxfam. It may not be explicitly humanist, but its ethos is undeniably in sync with humanist values.

    • 2 Clare January 27, 2009 at 8:13 pm

      It’s interesting that you mention giving to Oxfam. I suspect that there are lots of atheists and humanists that donate to, support and volunteer for charities. A lot of charities remain secular and partisan in their approach in order to field a wide base of support, so there is no need to set up a separate humanist alternative. In this way, the contributions by humanists and atheists go unheralded among all the other contributions. I think the O Project could play a great role in facilitating and encouraging humanists and atheists to get involved with worthwhile causes as well as raising the profile of atheist and humanist committment to good causes and the community. I think it would be great to see a local humanist group working together with a local homeless charity, conservation group or hospital charity. The Edinburgh Uni Humanist Society blood drives are a great example of that, in fact. I also like the idea of manning a stall one day and encouraging people to carry donor cards.

  2. 3 Jeff Nall January 28, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Hi folks,
    I’m thrilled to know Humanists for Peace came up in your discussion. Like you I’ve been sick over Gaza, especially since my tax dollars have gone to destroy so many lives. This organization I recently created is very new and I’d love to work with you on it. Never mind the distance between us. It’s important that we encourage assorted secularists to do more than attack religion. I’m going to give a talk on “Humanism and the Peace Revolution,” urging American Humanists to take on U.S. militarism at the American Humanist Association annual conference in June.

    Jeff Nall

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