Christians organise ‘Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimages’ in solidarity with 2m displaced people

Gaza Damage October 2023

Springing from Downunder, a movement of ‘Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimages’ calling for ‘prayerful solidarity’ with the people of Gaza has spread to 85 cities in 12 countries. The concept is based on the actions of a Kiwi, James Harris, who walked 41 km, the equivalent of the length of Gaza, raising $5,000 for relief organised by Palestinian Christians in Australia.

“The power of the pilgrimage is to allow the geography of the horror happening in Gaza to become real in our home cities,” says Christian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna on the movement’s website. “To flee Gaza City to hope to find refuge in Rafah in the south, that’s only the distance of Hillary’s Boat Harbour to Freemantle in my home town. You’d still hear the blast of bombs destroying your home. You could see the clouds of dust and debris.

“On pilgrimage, in solidarity, we can start to transfigure our vicarious trauma into action as we realise in our bodies that 2 million displaced people can’t find shelter from bombardment no matter where they are in that small area.”

The campaign is described as a “network of autonomous Christian groups:” in effect, local people organising marches. The Other Cheek became aware of the pilgrimages as local marches popped up in my Facebook feed.

The pilgrimages’ stated aims include: “Like Israeli human rights organisations and Jewish peace groups, we too want to accurately name what Palestinians are undergoing as fitting the legal definition of apartheid and military occupation. “

They call for:

“1. Enduring and Sustained Ceasefire.

“2. Immediate flow of life-saving food, water, aid, fuel and humanitarian assistance.

“3. Release of all hostages – both the Israeli hostages held by Hamas – and the Palestinian hostages held in the Israeli prison system.

“4. End of occupation so a just peace can begin.”

The Pilgroamages are endorsed by Palestinian Christians in Australia, Aotearoa Christians for Peace in Palestine, Freedom Road, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network and Churches for Middle East Peace.

The Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage movement is critical of Israel’s conduct in the ongoing war and occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. They state they stand against “apartheid policies, military occupation and what experts overwhelmingly identify as genocidal intent in Israel’s war on Gaza.

However, the suffering of Israeli victims is included in this suggestion for the format of a march: “But to be clear, the Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage is a meditative entering into the suffering of what the people of Palestine are experiencing. Each step is a prayer for every life taken since the occupation has re-entered the news cycle after the horror of October 7th 2023. This includes the 1,200 Israeli lives, a step for each of their lives means walking a kilometre, or just over half a mile (0.622 miles). As of writing, 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza and 332 in the West Bank have been murdered. A step for each of these lives means walking 17.7km, or 11 miles.”