Pilgrimage for Justice: Occupy Faith sets off

Pilgrimage for Justice: Occupy Faith sets off

Date: 15 June 2012

The ominous grey skies of Thursday 7 June did nothing to dampen the high spirits of the pilgrims congregating on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral that lunchtime. I went there to join them at the beginning of the pilgrimage.

The pilgrims were part of the group Occupy Faith, a diverse group of people of different faiths sharing the aims of the broader Occupy movement and its demands for social justice in the midst of the current global financial crisis. The pilgrims were setting off for a “Pilgrimage for Justice” to Canterbury which will see them travelling a distance of 62 miles and having many discussions and debates with locals along the way. It will then culminate in a conference taking place on 21 – 22 June on economic, environmental, and social justice at Woolf College, University of Kent at Canterbury.

As I joined members of Occupy Faith on the steps of St Paul’s for the first part of their journey, I was greeted warmly by pilgrimage organisers Tanya Paton and Alan Bolwell.  Alan Bolwell, a philosophy student at the University of Kent, explained to me that his idea of a pilgrimage came about following his involvement with the Occupy movement more broadly. I also learned that Occupy Faith is a group that is open to all: whether religious, spiritual or otherwise. Occupy London’s camp at St Paul’s faced eviction in February after five months’ high profile encampment in the capital, and the presence of Occupy once again at St Paul’s emphasised that this is a social movement that is definitely not going away any time soon.

About 30 protesters gathered together to receive a blessing from the Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St Paul’s, demonstrating that the concerns of Occupy are shared by many in the Church of England. Braving the rain as the pilgrims set off on their arduous journey, I enjoyed a conversation with organisers of Occupy London, and then joined the group as they made their first steps towards Blackheath.  Passing the protest outside the AGM of security firm G4S and hurriedly catching the pilgrims up on Lombard Street in the heart of the City of London, we enjoyed a few minutes respite and some music before carrying on our way again.      

Giving reasons for their pilgrimage, Occupy Faith write that “we are seeking a new chapter for our society, a place in which we can turn away from consumerism and apathy to valuing people over profit.” I wish them all the best as they come to the end of their pilgrimage in Canterbury later this month and hope they have inspired many communities along the way.

More about Occupy Faith.
Twitter: @occupyfaith_uk

 Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St Paul’s, gives his blessing to the Occupy Faith pilgrims