Dutch pilgrims plead for peace at the Peace Palace in The Hague

by Klaas van der Kamp last modified 16 December 2015 05:11 PM
Dutch pilgrims plead for peace at the Peace Palace in The Hague

Peace Palace in The Hague. Photo: Frans (3Djavu.nl)

08 September 2015

Peace will not come by itself. We have to work for it. That is the reason for hundreds of people to join the Walk of Peace on the 20th of September 2015, which will be held in The Hague. The Hague is a symbol of justice and peace because of the Peace Palace, where the international court of justice does its work.

Many Christians and other people are expected to participate in the Walk of Peace, in the city that houses the government and parliament of the Netherlands. Starting at 1:00 p.m. they will walk four miles from “Holland Spoor” train station to the Peace Palace and the Museon, a little further, where speeches will be delivered and rappers heard.

By walking together the pilgrims show that peace is something they want to work for. Their energy is available for initiatives of peace. It is their answer to IS soldiers who take up Kalashnikovs and kill innocent women and children.

Their weapon is the conviction that love, kindness and solidarity will make the world worthwhile to life on.

Unfortunately peace is not self-evident today. We see that young people from Western countries participate in the war in the Middle-East. They rape, kill and threaten for the sake of their own invented god. A flood of refugees is the result.

When a Buk missile, made in Russia, shot down an airplane of Malaysia Airlines on the 17th of July 2014, 298 people were killed; most of them (193 people) were Dutch. We realized then that aggression nowadays goes beyond borders. The pilgrims on the Walk of Peace want to show that there cannot be any excuse for any kind of aggression like that.

If you compare the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace with the Conciliar Process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation  which marked the ecumenical movement in the 1980s, you see changes. The conciliar process in the Netherlands was very political and society-committed. The pilgrimage now starts with our own spirituality.

So on the website of the pilgrimage in the Netherlands the first item is “lifestyle”; one of the topics is “prayer” and another one is “vocabulary”.

The “vocabulary” includes tongue-in-cheek translations of Dutch expressions to Latin and English. For instance “vluchtelingenkamp” (refugee camp) is “translated” to English as “Calais”  – a sarcastic comment on the inhuman treatment of refugees in Europe.

The pilgrimage in The Hague has also personal elements to it. You can see that in several stops during the pilgrimage.

One stop will be at the Aksa Mosque. Participants can visit the mosque and take a red rose with them, symbol of passion (red) and vulnerability.

At the monument of a Jewish Child every pilgrim gets a flag for prayer. You can write down your own prayer in the flag.

People will have the opportunity to meet freedom activists from Ukraine and Iraq. They can continue to the Peace Palace and finally the Museon, showcasing an exposition on 65 years of peace movement.

In the park next to the Museon, a speech by Hielke Wolters of the World Council of Churches will relate our situation to the international fellowship of churches. Rappers will contribute the last words in their own style, like GoHard, a spoken-word artist from the Schilderswijk, a part of The Hague known for its multicultural population.

It is a coincidence that the Walk of Peace is on the 20th of September, the birthday of Visser ‘t Hooft, the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Willem Visser ‘t Hooft was born on the 20th of September 1900 in Haarlem. In his biography he explains the struggle of the churches before the Second World War.

“Developments were like a bulldozer coming to us”, he says. However Christians managed to stay connected in those days, they made clear that they wouldn’t bless the weapons as was done in the First World War, and when they saw the killings targeting Jews, gypsies and communists some were prepared to help the refugees who needed a shelter.

Among Willem Visser ‘t Hooft’s contacts were people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who simply couldn’t join the army without losing his self-esteem and the awareness of being a servant of the kingdom of God. This awareness couldn’t go together with serving an aggressive state. People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Willem Visser ‘t Hooft still inspire us today.


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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