Friends to join the great Ekta Parishad Walk in India

Kate de la Mare, outgoing Clerk of France Yearly Meeting, and her husband Sébastien are to join the year-long preparatory march starting on 2nd October 2011 which will culminate in a great walk towards Delhi gathering about 100,000 walkers by October 2012. The walk is organised by Ekta Parishad (‘Forum for Unity’), which federates 100s of smaller movements & organisations working for the poorest peoples to regain autonomy in their lives by asking the ‘powers-that-be’ to respect peoples’ rights to manage, at village level, their life ressources – land, water and the forest. (see articles in ‘The Friend’ 3.8.2010 and 9.6.11).

Kate and Sébastien will set off from home on the 2nd October 2011, to travel overland (hitch-hiking, bus, train…) expecting to meet up with this preparatory walk in India sometime during the month of November, to walk with the movement over the next few months until Springtime.They have been offered places as translators at the World Conference of Friends taking place in Kenya in April 2012. “We hope our experiences will enable us to contribute to the Salt & Light theme Friends will be exploring.” Kate says.

“We intend to return to France to continue the journey over here and, in parallel with the indian preparatory walk, to offer a time of encounter and sharing from May until October 2012. We leave for this adventure with a good network of support from family and friends especially in the neighbourhood where we live and till the earth. Our meetings towards Spirit-led community are now bearing fruit and we intend to remain closely connected to the nascent community at home throughout our travels.” says Kate, who has been with Quakers since 1994 and came to France early in 2001 to join the l’Arche movement (founded by Lanza del Vasto following his meeting with Gandhi & seeking to live out the ideal of non-violence). In 2002 Sébastien came to stay in the same community (La Borie Noble) in the south of France and in 2003 they were married in the context of a local Sufi fraternity.

Kate continues: “By early 2006 via our connections with the Celtic Orthodox church in Brittany we had been offered the use of a half-hectare of land and began to live as subsistence farmers, producing food for ourselves and others – distributed by means of a box-scheme, and receiving benefits from the social security system. Over the years we have gradually simplified our lifestyle to reduce our dependence on money. In January 2009 we stopped receiving benefits and at Easter that year we stopped selling our produce and since that time our activity is centred on taking a fuller and more direct responsibility for our basic needs and those of the guests we receive through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – WWOOF. This means growing everything we need and collecting water and firewood. All our surplus produce is simply and freely distributed amongst friends and neighbours.”

“This act of faith in Life seems to have created a space in and around us for new openings…. We began to meet and pray in a form of worship-sharing on a weekly basis with a neighbouring family; from a mutual desire to hear how we might be Spirit-led towards living in closer community. In the Autumn of 2009 and through our l’Arche connections, we heard that a disciple of Gandhi, Rajagopal, was touring France and would be speaking in Nantes. On that occasion he spoke together with Ana Juanche (Nobel Peace Prize laureate and secretary of SERPAJ in South America) for the cause of indigeneous peoples, small farmers, labourers and all people in the world (including those in Europe) oppressed by the growth economy. We learned about Ekta Parishad.”

“Rajagopal’s deep understanding of the roots of oppression world-wide, his peaceful and loving attitude in presenting the problems and offering ways forward resonated profoundly with our own experience here in Europe, and we both felt strongly that we wanted to work in solidarity with others across the world who are consciously seeking to live simply and in harmony with the creation (including humankind). Sébastien spoke to Rajagopal, who suggested that the best support we could offer might be to go to India to learn by experience with the movement there, and from that basis to return to Europe to share with others & organise parallel activities/movements over here. He offered to place us in close contact with small farmers in India who live an economy close to our own.”

“We have a strong sense that the greater part of suffering in us, and consequently in the world, is coming from our dis-unity. This dis-unity being so aggravated and habitual in our long-industrialised countries that we often feel at a loss as individuals to know how to ‘be’ together. We hope that in India we may learn from people who are gathering to speak from a place of unity and for justice and harmony. Not in opposition to others, but holding up the universal truth of our fundamental connectedness to each other, to the land, water, forests – to all of life. This level of unity experienced with others from the basis of our connectedness to the Earth is something we have not yet experienced in the western world; but which we have heard in the testimonies of people coming from other continents. We hope to live this experience which could enable us on our return to authentically express the call to return to Life, in justice & harmony.”

“For the duration of the ongoing journey in France (and maybe Switzerland) Sébastien is proposing a walk creating a link between different places and people who are open to the search for healing in our connections to ourselves, to each other and to the earth. At present the idea is to meet the Ark communities (founded by Lanza del Vasto), the “sacred eco-sites” network, the “Oases everywhere” (founded by Pierre Rabhi), various religious and alternative communities, eco-sites, farms in the WWOOF network, associations, villages and towns, as well as each and every person the walkers may meet on the way.”

“The route envisaged would go from the south-west of France to mid-south then follow more or less the Rhône valley going north in the direction of the Alps, possibly Switzerland, then heading west, passing the in the Centre region and reaching Brittany…. to finally join the walk organised by Jan Ouest 2012 (a french association linked with the indian association Ekta Parishad) which will set off from Le Croisic (near Nantes) on the 21st September and intending to reach Paris on the 17th October 2012. The whole walking in parallel with the 100,000 walkers in India also expecting to reach Delhi on the 17th October 2012.”

“Part of the proposal here in France is to cultivate awareness as we walk. Walking seems to us to be a simple and priviledged way of being in tune with Nature (within and all around), to feel the connection with the sky and the earth and the loving presence wich unites all of life.”

“For food and shelter there is an intention that as walkers we might be willing to experience our vulnerability as we trust in providence. In living vulnerably perhaps we will allow ourselves to be touched and to open our hearts to compassion.”

“To those visited by the walk we would like to offer an artistic presentation (theatre, puppets, music…) as a way of opening a space of encounter and sharing, and of mutual support towards the realisation of our deepest hopes for humankind with the earth. An essential goal of this walk at home is to contribute towards uniting a number of different energies at work for Life in all its beauty & for all beings who are a part of this earth.”

If you wish to know more and/or to follow us on our journey in India, the ongoing walk in France, and/or the growth of the new community at Guéveneux, you may look on the blog (in french only at present): or contact us by email below.

Contact name: Kate de la Mare

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