Last Sunday afternoon – amidst thousands of police officers, mob-like media, a fence stretching on for miles, the leaders of the 20 most affluent countries in the world, and a city gone completely awry – hundreds of peace-loving, spirit-sounding, song-singing activists gathered at the corner of King and Bay to speak to God.
I had the privilege of being part of the D&P youth delegation to Huntsville and Toronto for the G8/G20 leaders summits.
This peace vigil, hosted by the Student Christian Movement and Christian Peacemaker Teams, was the last leg of our journey after a long weekend of calling on our leaders to take action on food sovereignty and the rights of small-scale farmers in the Global South.
It was evident to me from attending another protest earlier in the day, and from just walking the streets of Toronto on Sunday, that the city was on edge. The heavy police presence created tension and anxiety, and the violent tactics used by a handful of protesters the previous day had frustrated many.
But for a short time, this prayer vigil was a sanctuary in a broken world.
We marched – families, young and old, Christian and Jewish, Catholic and Muslim, men and women, religious and lay people – all committed, prayerfully present and all learning from each other.
We marched – one united, peaceful force, bent on restoring hope and love to a world ravaged by despair and violence.
We sat – faced with no other choice as a line of police blocked our movement towards the fence.
We sat – in solidarity with the oppressed.
We sat – praying for justice for all those that are persecuted.
We sat –in spite of the riot police and their efforts to create fear and seclusion.
We sat – and sang to the music of our brothers’ and sisters’ struggles for justice. ¡Presente!
We sat – and vowed to “keep on marching forward, never turning back”.
And as the tension rose between police and demonstrators, we sang until the fear and hatred had subsided and we could once again recognize and celebrate our common humanity.
I am honoured to live among such devoted activists who refuse to surrender to the propagation of fear and the seduction of apathy.
To all those who work for, who play for, who sing for, who long for, who create for, who pray for peace – blessed are you.
May this vigil serve as a lasting reminder of the importance and power of peace in a world that often dismisses it.
by Kaitlyn Duthie-Kannikkatt, Eastern Ontario Youth Rep