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Region 3 - Waltham Forest Friendship Pilgrimage

The 30th of July marked the inaugural Waltham Forest Friendship Pilgrimage – a walk organised by the Women’s Inter-Faith with support from Walthamstow Sai Centre to celebrate and promote understanding between the many faith groups active in the borough.
By 9am that morning, a band of hardy pilgrims from all faiths and backgrounds, including a contingent of Sai devotees had begun to gather outside the Ganesha Temple in Walthamstow where the walk was pencilled to start. There was no percussion however. Nor even the customary placards one may expect to accompany events of this sort – only a quiet chatter that gave away an air of excitement new to these parts.
Inside the temple, we were greeted by blessings from the priests with vibuthi and dollops of Kumkum and sandalwood paste, as well as an impassioned speech by a young lad who recounted his own faith journey as a Hindu. And on his stirring, concluding note, “Ambe Sivam, Sivane Ambe” – God is love, love is God – we marched on, united in spirit.

Before long, lunch had arrived, by which time we had already visited a Catholic Church, a Buddhist Temple and a mosque, all within a mile. The mayor too paid a brief visit, showing his support for the event, and with us, listened to the remarkable faith stories that were shared; each revealing a different road towards that same ultimate end, and each a snippet of that One Glory.
After a light lunch, courtesy of the local mosque, we plodded onwards in the heat of the afternoon, like wanderers in some sacred land. But this of course was not Mecca, or the Vatican or Tirupathi for that matter. And yet here in this little known pocket of East London were Muslims, Hindus, Christians and birds of all feathers flocking together. One could only wonder. Perhaps at no point in history could so many places of worship have been concentrated in so small a space. Indeed the world was at our doorstep, and so too the words of all the scriptures and prophets of all the ages. These were blessed times.
A few more stops and by dusk we had reached the final call in our pilgrimage – the local Gurdwara in Leyton, in time for the closing worship when the Guru Granth – the holy book and living Guru was carried away for its nightly repose. But deep down we knew this was not the end. The walk, after all was symbolic.

The real pilgrimage would go on in our hearts, throughout our life and perhaps over lifetimes in each of our contacts with other beings. And consciously or not, we like all beings – believers and sceptics, man and beast were all pilgrims in the search of complete fulfilment.

Posted on: Tue 25 Oct 2011 12:08