Even a Little Love is Stronger than the Wars of the World

written by Rachel Walker

Reflections on the Children’s Lantern Parade

Swan Island Peace Convergence 2013

We walked and sang our way through the dark Queenscliff streets, guided by the warm glow of handmade lanterns.

As I went down to Swan Island to Pray
Studying about that good old way
and who shall end these dirty wars?
Good Lord show me the way

It was the second night of the peace convergence. We were heading down to the Swan Island gates for a time of reflection and stillness before the chaos of the next few days set in. The next morning, we had planned to blockade these gates in an attempt to disrupt the workings of the military and intelligence base.

We gathered together and the children read out some messages from kids in Afghanistan who have suffered under the war for their entire lives. They told us,

We wish to live without war.
Blood cannot wash away blood.
Even a little love is stronger than the wars of the world.
We want all troops to leave now.
War cannot bring us peace.
We wish to live without war.

Amongst the soft light of the lanterns we laid out images of children who had been killed in the Afghanistan war.

It was a strange sensation looking at the gates and knowing what lay behind them. Many women, men and children’s deaths were a result of the training of the soldiers less than one kilometre away. I was standing at one of the many interfaces between society and the war machine. But it was just a gate. A gate to a building complex, where business runs as usual. It takes a moment to connect what’s happening behind this gate to the horrific consequences overseas. And it takes just another moment to be back looking at a gate leading to a bridge in a small coastal town; and wondering how it came to stand for so much.

We repeated each phrase after the kids,

We wish to live without war.
Blood cannot wash away blood.
Even a little love is stronger than the wars of the world.
We want all troops to leave now.
War cannot bring us peace.
We wish to live without war.

These words not surprisingly wrapped themselves around my heart and made it ache. But the feeling of loss and despair was followed by an unexpected calm. There was still hope. As a people, we were listening. These Afghan children’s pleas had landed somewhere. I couldn’t have predicted the intense power unleashed in speaking their words.

When we make the space to collectively speak up, contemplate or mourn,  something changes in us. Just as embracing the truth leads to healing in our individual lives, I have discovered now that it works on a collective and societal level too. The more of us involved, the more amplified the hurt and healing can be.

We finished our peace vigil with an acapella version of Vine and Fig Tree. The lyrics create a powerful impression of a world where weapons are re-purposed into garden tools and people live without fear and have enough to eat. We sang prayerfully, asking that we would start to bring this vision about.

As we reached a natural end to the song someone spoke up, somewhat echoing my line of thought. He excitedly said, “These gates are just going to melt right in front of us if we keep up this beautiful singing.”

The crazily optimistic side of me thought it was feasible. Of course it sounds impossible, but we had actually achieved something incredible and unlikely already just by coming together. We had broken from our everyday routines and come from different corners of the country to be a beacon for peace.

For four days we created a microcosm of peace: a temporary community living together, eating together, making decisions together, drawing on our diverse wisdom (including that of the single digit folk), doing craft together and advancing our learnings in non-violence. We weren’t there just to disrupt the war machine- although we would be doing that too- we were there also to create and hold a space to nurture the outlandish idea that peace is attainable.

To me, events like the Swan Island peace convergence say, ‘we’ll just keep trying our best even though we already know the outcome is impossible to reach.’ This way of living is so countercultural and transformative that the gate melting suddenly doesn’t look as far off either.

We walked home from our vigil singing Freedom is coming, oh yes I know. When we sang the verse again with the word peace instead of freedom my whole being lit up. We weren’t singing for an arbitrary ‘world peace’ that falls out of the sky. But a grounded conviction in our and other’s humanity that flows through people and communities.

Less than two days later, seventeen of us illegally walked through the gates and onto the Swan Island military base. Amazingly, someone had left it unlocked and we were able to prize it open it while taking a decoy group photo. You could say the gates melted.


What is Swan Island?

What is the Swan Island Peace Convergence?

Video of us entering the island

Some more accounts of SIPC 2013 by Graeme Dunstan, Jasmine Pilbrow and Shane Fenwick

1 Comment

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One response to “Even a Little Love is Stronger than the Wars of the World

  1. Good writing, Rachel.
    Certainly the exclusion of those big steel gates melted away before our determined and loving witness.
    Joy for me is the memory of the radiance of your fair face when you came back through those gates handcuffed!
    It made my heart sing. “Oh Rachel, let’s go down …”

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