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!