Marching for peace and justice
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A river of light flowed through downtown Porto Alegre last night as up to two thousand people - including two Nobel Prize-winners - took part in a candle-lit march for peace.
Organized by local churches as part of the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence, the march began at the Largo Glênio Peres outside the Mercado Central with Latin American music from Xico Esvael and Victor Heredia. Young people carried banners highlighting peace and justice issues. One, depicting the world held in God's hand, read "Let God change you first, then you will transform the world."
The crowd, many of whom had come straight from Assembly evening prayers, heard WCC president Bernice Powell-Jackson urge them to commit themselves to overcoming violence. Prawate Khid-arn of the Christian Conference of Asia told them, "If we do not take the risk of peace, we will have to take the risk of war." Israel Batista of the Latin American Council of Churches spoke of poverty, injustice and abuse of women and children and asked, "How are we to speak of peace?" But he said, "In spite of violence, we will persist in the struggle for peace."
After an address by Julia Qusibert, a Bolivian indigenous Christian, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Porto Alegre Dadeus Grings lit a huge candle, from which candles were lit and distributed among the people. Representatives of other faiths took part in prayers of blessing during which the crowd turned to the four points of the compass.
On the way to the Praça da Matriz, the marchers sang the Samba of the Struggle for Peace and the Taizé chant Ubi Caritas, among other songs. The march paused while Nobel prize-winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel improvised a poem and addressed the crowd at the Esquina Democrática or Democratic Corner.
At the Praça da Matriz, dominated by the huge monument in the centre, the crowd watched a dance to the music Sob a figueira (Under the tree) which says "We will transform cannon and swords into ploughshares, spades and hoes." They concluded by holding up placards with the word "Peace" in different languages.
The evening was brought to a climax with an address by the second Nobel Prize-winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He began his impassioned address by saying, "We have an extraordinary God. God is a mighty God, but this God needs you. When someone is hungry, bread doesn't come down from heaven. When God wants to feed the hungry, you and I must feed the hungry. And now God wants peace in the world."
The Archbishop concluded by saying, "So go out all of you and represent our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." The WCC 9th Assembly choir sang We are marching in the light of God as the marchers dispersed.
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