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Silent vigil a gathering for peace

Gandhi statue, rights museum apt backdrops

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Photos by Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press 
Multi-faith and human rights groups gather for a circle of contemplation at The Forks�s Gandhi statue Tuesday afternoon to reflect on global violence.

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Photos by Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press Multi-faith and human rights groups gather for a circle of contemplation at The Forks�s Gandhi statue Tuesday afternoon to reflect on global violence.

Talk about a peaceful demonstration -- no one said a word.

Oblivious to the trains, buses and skateboarders rolling around it, a lunchtime crowd at The Forks stood, kneeled and sat in silence for half an hour Tuesday.

More than 100 Winnipeggers of all ages and walks of life quietly gathered for peace.

The silent rally was held beside a statue of Gandhi and near the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

"He embodies all that is great as far as human rights is concerned," Krishnamurti Dakshinamurti said before the event began.

At the same spot weeks earlier, rallies were held by flag-waving and sign-carrying crowds for and against the Israeli government's response to the conflict in Gaza.

The idea for a silent vigil contemplating the suffering of so many in conflicts around the world came together at an Eid feast celebrating the end of Ramadan, said organizer Lynda Trono.

She said silent vigils are going to be held at the site every Tuesday over the lunch hour.

"Silence is probably the most profound response," said Shahina Siddiqui, who hosted the Eid feast. "For some, silence is prayer, for others it's a protest," said the executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association.

"For some, it's an expression of grief."

"I'm thinking of the people in Gaza -- children and families on both sides," said Don Robinson, who identified himself as a Cree from Winnipeg. "I'm hoping peace will come to them. I'm here to be part of it."

For 21-year-old Zach Fleisher, who works downtown and attended the rally on his lunch break, it was a chance to show some compassion for the people affected "rather than who's right or wrong."

Seeing conflicts around the world escalate is disheartening, said one rally participant.

"We don't seem to be evolving very well as a species when it comes to resolving conflict," said Rev. Barb Janes. It's hard to see how there could be a lasting peace in the Middle East between Hamas and the Israeli government, said Janes.

"Both sides are so entrenched."

Still, she announced Tuesday's silent gathering from the pulpit at Crescent-Fort Rouge United Church Sunday.

"I'm not sure we're going to change any world leaders' minds, but I'm hoping the coverage will make people think about how we can build peace here at home," Janes said.

The rally drew together people of different faiths, no faith and different cultural backgrounds, as organizers such as Manju Lodha had hoped.

"Together we can make a difference," she said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 6, 2014 A2

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