The sky is very dark and wet in downtown Toronto as 300 of us gather on Sunday, January 29, to shine some light on the violence and illegal detentions taking place in occupied Iraq.
Many come as friends of Christian Peacemaker Jim Loney, held hostage somewhere in Iraq along with Harmeet Sooden, Norman Kember and Tom Fox. Most are Christians experienced at praying with their moving feet.
It's a different kind of light we are trying to shine. There's been enough of the other - shock-and-awe. Today, the heavens over occupied Iraq sporadically glow with shake-and-bake missions using white phosphorus to flush out and burn human targets.
Our Sunday-afternoon illumination is the culmination of a two-week campaign that began on Martin Luther King day, January 16, an extension of the daily vigils that have taken place at the Peace Garden in front of City Hall since Loney's abduction. On our procession, I carry the small lantern that lit those sacred circles of prayer.
Ten-foot-high banners and five "detainees" in bright orange prison suits, with black hoods over their heads lead the way. To stay focused in prayer, we sing, winding down Yonge Street and heading west on Queen.
Our first stop is behind Holy Trinity Anglican Church, near the homeless memorial. In silence we meditate on the words of those who have experienced imprisonment - and gone on to live full lives of non-violent resistance. They express the hope we carry for our four beloved ones and for thousands of imprisoned Iraqis.
The words of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a close friend of Gandhi who spent more than 30 years in jail fighting the British empire in India, are read first: "By yourselves you may fail in your efforts to be completely non-violent, but God helping, you will succeed. Do not lose heart."
Then, words of hope of Christians who survived captivity. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement: "There is the promise of the harvest to come."
George Fox, founder of the Quakers, points us to "that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars." Jean Goss, for five years a prisoner of war in a Nazi camp who went on to help organize the non-violent overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines: "For me, love of enemy is the creative and liberating love of God that lives in us."
And Phil Berrigan, from his letter from prison: "The established Church trades to Caesar its moral neutrality for tax exemption and other perks; the individual Christian trades to Caesar taxes and silence for a sixfold share of the world's goods and services." Phil spent 17 years in prison resisting U.S. militarism.
Our aim is to end up praying directly in front of the U.S. Consulate. But the police are under orders to prevent us from getting anywhere near the building. We gather in front of the courthouse across the street. A brief litany of the suffering in Iraq is read.
We'd begun the two weeks with the message of Martin Luther King. Now, facing the U.S. Consulate, we end with his words of hope: "Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, the command to love one's enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival."
A large globe is illuminated, a symbol of hope. As we sing, we exchange a sign of peace with those next to us as a gesture of commitment to keep the light shining.